Cultural Advisory Council August 18, 2020 Meeting Minutes

Virtual Meeting


Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, chair; Alison Cuddy, vice chair; Paola Aguirre-Serrano, Sandra Delgado, Juan Díes, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Akilah Halley, Tempestt Hazel, Kevin Iega Jeff, Josephine Lee, William Michel, Heather A. Miller, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Myrna Salazar, Jennifer A. Scott, Paul Sznewajs, Vivian Teng, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Robert Faust, Tracie D. Hall, Ginger Lane, Tonika Lewis Johnson

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Mark Kelly, Melanie Wang, Erin Harkey, Jamey Lundblad, Nina Melendez



I. Welcome and Introduction

The meeting was called to order at 3pm by Council chair, Amina Dickerson.

Amina welcomed all to the Cultural Advisory Council meeting, noting it is being held virtually due to COVID-19. She noted in accordance with Illinois Open Meetings Act requirements, the meeting is livestreamed for viewing by the general public and no requests for public comment were received for the meeting.

Alison Cuddy, vice chair, thanked members of the Council for joining and provided an overview of the virtual meeting process. Alison thanked Commissioner Mark Kelly, Deputy Commissioner Erin Harkey, and Chief Marketing Officer Jamey Lundblad for joining and Director Melanie Wang and Nina Melendez for their support as staff liaisons to the Council, as well as those providing technical support for the meeting.

Amina noted her gratitude for the goodwill of this group and acknowledged tremendous support from DCASE preparing for the meeting, even amid numerous challenges from budget cuts to staff reassignments. Amina announced a quorum present and requested a motion to approve the CAC July meeting minutes, which were previously shared with Council members. Esther Grimm motioned to approve, seconded by Myrna Salazar. The motion carried unanimously, approving the July 14, 2020 meeting minutes.

Amina reviewed the agenda to introduce the next items for Council discussion, then welcoming Commissioner Kelly for an update.


II. Update from DCASE

Commissioner Kelly thanked Amina and Alison and greeted the CAC. He expressed excitement with progress as the CAC becomes more of a partner with DCASE and the City, shaping collective work moving forward. The Commissioner invited staff to speak. Deputy Commissioner Erin Harkey provided updates on recent programming:

  • Millennium Park at Home: The program successfully launched a digital platform to hire and showcase Chicago artists for performances that otherwise would be cancelled due to the Park not hosting programs in-person. Despite its intent, some elements of the platform were new and involved an artist incident that prompted a learning moment for DCASE. DCASE is committed to artists and has taken steps to improve and clarify its contracting and artist process going forward.
  • Performing and presentation opportunities featuring Chicago artists: DCASE produced over 150 new and reimagined events this summer season to date, hiring more than 100 Chicago based musicians through virtual programming
  • Arts for Illinois Relief Fund: DCASE has contributed nearly $2 million in financial relief to Chicago musicians and music organizations to date, in partnership with the local philanthropic community and Arts for Illinois
  • Public art: Two new public artworks opened on the Riverwalk and a new mural just completed for the Little Village Branch Library
  • INVEST South/West: A new pilot Artist-in-Residence program will position art as a broad community and economic development strategy, with over $740,000 funding to INVEST South/West neighborhoods. Over $1 million has already been invested the past six months in local artists and cultural infrastructure in these neighborhoods.
  • Monuments and Memorials: Shortly to be announced, the Mayor is leading a new community effort with DCASE, Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools to review, assess and make recommendations on monuments, memorials and art across the city. The project aims to recognize unacknowledged or forgotten history associated with public art and find new ways to memorialize the city’s history.

Chief Marketing Officer Jamey Lundblad spoke to DCASE and City announcements:

  • CityArts: DCASE’s annual program for nonprofit organizations recently announced grant awards to 191 organizations, totaling $2 million this year made possible with additional funding from the National Endowment of the Arts.
  • Chicago Jazz Festival and World Music Festival: Both will be announced this week, virtual programs with local musicians in venues on Chicago’s South and West sides
  • Virtual viewership and engagement with DCASE programs: DCASE virtual events have had 365,000 views to date and on track to 500,000 by end of 2020

Commissioner Kelly recognized the DCASE team for being nimble and responsive to the City’s needs and continued support to the cultural landscape, prioritizing equity throughout the crises of this period. This is all despite its budget cut by nearly half this year. He restated DCASE’s commitment to addressing the issues of systemic racism in the city and its effects on neighborhoods, individuals and artists.

The Commissioner also highlighted Chicago’s film industry positioned as a growth area for the city. Led by Director Kwame Amoaku, the Chicago Film Office is working with major studios to bring large film productions to Chicago, being well-positioned among US cities for its strong diversity practices and pandemic protocols. Chicago is also supporting efforts to expand film infrastructure on the city’s South and West sides.

Amina thanked DCASE and invited CAC questions with DCASE comment:

  • How does DCASE virtual audience compare to a typical year?

The virtual audience is smaller compared to millions of guests who typically attend DCASE’s in-person events, yet DCASE is happy with viewing numbers given abnormal circumstances and the new opportunity to prioritize local artists.

  • Can you share more on the city’s monuments work and committee composition?

Three CAC members have confirmed service on the committee: Jennifer Scott, Cesáreo Moreno and Heather Miller. The full committee is not yet final but is expected to have about 25 members, with artists, historians and elected officials. The project will include broad public engagement and a public education component.

  • What is the status of this year’s Jazz Festival?

This year’s Jazz Festival will not be the 42nd year of Jazz Fest, but will instead be the “Millennium Park at Home Jazz Series.” It will feature 60 performances online over 4 days, next generation artists performing at clubs across the city.

  • What is the timeline for DCASE budget planning and how can CAC help advocate?

City departments do not publicly advocate for their own budgets, but we can work with people to build understanding and value of our services to the public.

  • In conversations with film producers, is DCASE going to advocate for local creators?

Yes, beyond bringing outside productions to Chicago, the ultimate goal is to make Chicago a top film center with opportunities for the local film community. This builds on our professional development programs to build filmmaking capacity as a city.

  • Expressed disappointment with how Millennium Park at Home incident unfolded but pleased to learn DCASE is making changes. Will DCASE have a process to promote relations with artists moving forward?

Yes, we already reached out to the artist and have taken steps to update contracting process for future artist performances.


III. Near and Long-Term Action Steps

Amina shifted the conversation inviting CAC members to discuss near and long-term action steps in CAC’s future and what goals they seek accomplish by end of their appointments. She commented that building awareness of the CAC to the community will occur naturally as their work continues, so they should to focus on more specific tasks that CAC can engage in starting now in this difficult time.

Summarizing insights from past CAC discussions, top recommended actions were to:

  • Investigate precariousness of arts/DCASE as funded through tourism economy
  • Provide counsel on DCASE grants and programs
  • Help reimagine the arts in the aftermath of current crises

CAC members voiced comments and questions to further consider:

  • This is a sector challenge. Arts funding is already precarious. We should speak with greater clarity which crises we refer to.
  • We should advance the vital role the arts play in addressing COVID, racial justice, the economic crises.
  • Can we create an inventory of assets and resources that can be shared across arts organizations and artists, to help facilitate connections?
  • What can we enable and do right now to endure? Not just in aftermath.
  • How do we get ahead of the crises and become more proactive instead of reactive? Look to the city’s past budgets as an expression of values and resources.

Among longer term priorities, the CAC identified:

  • Revisit Mayor’s arts priorities, identify steps to advance and track progress
  • Position CAC as a major driver to center racial equity; neighborhood investment
  • Secure significant increase in arts grants budget, greater percentage for racial equity

CAC members further voiced:

  • Agreement that should review actions as to support the Mayor’s priorities
  • Suggestion to more expressly include groups such as artists with disabilities

Amina invited the Commissioner to speak further to racial equity and some of DCASE’s initial steps, which includes initial conversations with City’s chief equity officer and reviews of all programs and grant processes through an equity perspective.


IV. Charge and Structure of CAC

Alison Cuddy shifted the conversation to the CAC’s structure and how discussion thus far helps frame its work going forward. Referencing the Municipal Code of Chicago text on the Cultural Advisory Council related to DCASE, a more expanded interpretation was then introduced for group consideration – one that calls for CAC to be a more engaged body aiming to advance a supportive, equitable culture for the arts throughout the city.

Alison then opened the floor for comments. No group members raised concerns with the expanded approach. Myrna Salazar suggested the CAC could increase impact and influence by being more visible to the media, a comment acknowledged by CAC chairs.


V. Next Steps

Alison presented an opportunity for CAC members to connect informally before the next meeting via optional small discussion groups to would encourage engagement among the Council between meetings. Groups would be broadly based on arts topics that align with past proposed arts priorities shared by the Office of the Mayor:

1. Arts as Education

2. Arts as Creative Industry and Livelihood

3. Arts as Community Vitality

4. Arts as Economic Development

5. Arts as Government Engagement and Practice

6. Arts as Resources and Advocacy

CAC Members would be invited to express which topics were of most interest to them. Alison introduced CAC members serving as initial facilitators to be supported by DCASE. As groups are voluntary, those organizing the discussions would have flexibility to adapt to a format that suits their group and conversation style.

Members commented support of the opportunity to connect in smaller discussions, and Amina and Alison acknowledged the added efforts from staff at a time when DCASE is already stretched.

Amina asked members to keep equity, inclusion, diversity and social justice in mind, and to consider how these topics are embodied in the work DCASE is already doing. She also noted the next full council meeting will take place November 17, 2020. The goal is to have groups share insights at that time, noting that discussions could help prepare members to consider CAC priorities in 2021.


VI. Adjourn

Amina concluded the meeting by expressing profound appreciation for the time, energy, intellect, and spirit that everyone is bringing to this endeavor.

The meeting adjourned at 4:51pm.

Minutes submitted by Melanie Wang, DCASE