Cultural Advisory Council May 11, 2021 Meeting Minutes

Virtual Meeting


Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, Chair; Alison Cuddy, Vice-Chair; Sandra Delgado, Juan Díes, Robert Faust, Brooke Flanagan, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Tracie D. Hall, Akilah Halley, Tempestt Hazel, Kevin Iega Jeff, Ginger Lane, Tonika Lewis Johnson, William Michel, Heather A. Miller, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Myrna Salazar, Paul Sznewajs, Vivian Teng, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Josephine Lee, Jennifer A. Scott, Paola Aguirre-Serrano

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Mark Kelly, Erin Harkey, Jamey Lundblad, Nina Melendez, Kerry Sheehan, Tara Vock

Mayor’s Office: Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Samir Mayekar



I. Welcome and Introduction

CAC Chair, Amina Dickerson, opened the meeting and welcomed all attendees. Amina noted the meeting being held virtually and in accordance with Illinois Open Meetings Act requirements and provisions for virtual participation in public meetings. A live stream link and pre-registration link for public comment were both posted to the DCASE website; however, no requests for public comment were received.

CAC Vice-Chair, Alison Cuddy, thanked Council members and DCASE staff for joining. She provided a brief overview of the virtual meeting process thanked DCASE staff and participating interpreters for helping to make the meeting accessible.

Amina confirmed a quorum of Council members present. She then requested a motion to approve the February 9th, 2021, meeting minutes as presented. The minutes were approved by unanimous vote.

Amina welcomed new Council member Brooke Flanagan. Brooke is the Executive Director of Steppenwolf Theater and brings a wealth of experience with her.

Lastly, Amina provided a brief overview of the agenda and then welcomed the DCASE team for updates.


II. Chicago’s Arts77 Recovery Plan

DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly thanked CAC members for their continued contributions to the work of both DCASE and the cultural landscape of the city. He shared that in the wake of the devastation that our cultural landscape has experienced, the arts are uniquely positioned to aid in Chicago's recovery efforts with creative workers standing ready.

The approach for the Arts77 plan is to ensure that Chicago thrives post-pandemic by leveraging the power of its arts and culture sector; putting artists to work by rebuilding, reimagining, unifying, and healing our neighborhoods. He added that this is also the approach for the department’s overall work as well.

DCASE experienced a 50% budget cut and 20% loss of staff but were able to mobilize the resources and energy needed to help revive the cultural sector and place it at the forefront of recovery.

There are three strategies driving the work of DCASE - all of which are embedded in the Arts77 and Open Culture initiatives:

  • Expand access and participation in the arts citywide
    • Many Chicago neighborhoods have historically been denied cultural resources, cultural entities, and cultural life. DCASE is working to remedy this with programs like Culture in My Neighborhood, Chicago Presents, Neighborhood Access Program, Artist Response Programs, and DCASE work in assisting cultural organizations looking to relocate to the South and West side.
  • Prioritize employment of creative workers through City programs and services
    • Embedded in this is the great need to hire local, the Artist Relief Fund, Artists in Residence, workforce development, professional development and We Will - the City’s first citywide planning effort that embeds artists into the process.
  • Deepen public sector investment in the creative sector
    • For the first time, public art is considered part of the city’s infrastructure and will be included in the Capital Plan with $18.5 million dollars in public art being incorporated over the next 5 years.


The Arts77 program delivers an unprecedented investment of $60 million dollars derived from capital funds, city funds, Care Act funds, and foundation support. It involves the Chicago Park District, Chicago Department of Transportation, Department Planning and Development, and the Chicago Public Library. Commissioner Kelly is thrilled with this advocacy but understands that more is needed. He shared that the City is in continued conversations regarding American Rescue Plan funds as well.

CAC members joined Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently to announce the Open Culture initiative wherein the return of Chicago’s diverse and legendary cultural scene was announced. Some of the forthcoming programs introduced include:

  • Chicago In Tune
  • Millennium Park and Chicago Cultural Center
  • Chicago Presents and Chicago Band Roster
  • SummerDance
  • Taste of Chicago To-Go
  • Chicago City Markets and Maxwell Street Market
  • New public art
  • New reopening guidelines


Expand Access in the Arts

First Deputy Commissioner, Erin Harkey, began her presentation by noting the importance of DCASE’s work in taking advantage of opportunities and funding that has historically not been available. The DCASE team hopes to harness these funds and redirect them benefit the cultural sector. Erin noted that this initiative is evolving, ongoing, and developing and that and there is room for input in how these strategies develop and ultimately reach the sector

The City has began to announce new guidelines, funding opportunities, and programs to increase access and reopen the cultural sector through the following strategies:

  • Expand Access to the Arts
    • Provide support and guidance for cultural venues and organizations to assist with reopening
    • Provide financial support for cultural programs in neighborhoods to ensure access in all neighborhoods
    • Build cultural facilities on the south and west sides to support the work of local organizations and artists
    • Increase support for youth arts education
    • In partnership with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), expand arts access for people with disabilities through grants and capacity building programs
  • Creative Workforce
    • Provide direct grants to artists for relief, recovery, and rebuilding programs
    • Employ artists and creative skilled workers through the capital plan
    • Hire artists to work in and with city departments through artist in residence programs
    • Provide free professional development programs
    • Better understand, support, and plan for creative workforce development
  • Deepen Public Sector Investment
    • Relief programs for artists
    • Increased direct support to the most impacted communities
    • Centering the arts in recovery planning
    • Public awareness and advocacy opportunities for artists


Proposed CAC Working Groups

In an effort to increase City engagement and participation for Council members, Alison Cuddy announced the proposed CAC working groups, each composed of 6 or fewer individuals. The proposed CAC Working Groups include:

Group 1: Expand access and participation in the arts citywide

Group 2: Prioritize employment of creative workers through City programs and services

Group 3: Deepen Public Sector investment in the creative sector through financial support and policy priorities

Amina also announced the 3 ad-hoc groups being convened around racial equity, public safety, and awareness and advocacy:

Group 1: DCASE’s racial equity work

Group 2: Furthering and implementing public safety-related issues

Group 3: Public awareness and advocacy campaign work

Amina then invited CAC questions for DCASE comment:

  • What is the status of larger city festivals?

We will be holding smaller festivals throughout the neighborhoods, and he highlighted the new Chicago in Tune festival which will feature local artists.

  • What are the metrics of success for the working groups and overall CAC?

We’ve not had the opportunity to create a larger dashboard due to our immediate pivots in the wake of the pandemic.

We are working on building the evaluation criteria. DCASE has been working with Bloomberg Philanthropies to assess DCASE programs and we have received recommendations on how to better capture data. We are determined to embed a racial equity lens into this work.

In terms of CAC working groups, each group has a CAC lead and DCASE staff lead. Last year, the process involved these two coming together initially to map out a scope. The work is aligned with active initiatives within DCASE. This is part of our effort to try and ensure that we're not duplicating or recommending programming beyond what's already been mapped out.

In terms of South and West Side cultural development projects, do we have infrastructure such as acousticians, lighting, sound, etc., working to ensure that all different disciplines have required toolsets to realize their artistic visions? Will we need pro-bono assistance?

The Park District has 11 auditoriums that will be restored. Restorations will include new lighting, electrical, seating, staging, etc. We believe the Chicago Park District also has consultants for this; however, we will research further.

Council member, Brooke Flanagan, offered to engage Steppenwolf’s community and consultants if pro-bono assistance is needed.

  • When do we expect DCASE resources to be fully restored?

We hope to be fully funded in 2022. Advocacy for DCASE funding is appreciated and encouraged.

  • What is the status of American Recovery Plan funds?

We are advocating internally to secure $25 million in funds. These funds are going to be more flexible than the first round of Care Act funds, allowing us to be more ambitious in our re-granting. We are looking to support individual creative workers, individual organizations, and for-profit businesses, in addition to increasing resources for arts education and neighborhood development.

  • With regards to cultural asset mapping, is the infrastructure to ensure that these programs live and are active and vibrant in our communities and what is the role of the community and the artists in a self-determinate way to be able to shape how these programs will operate in their communities and for their organizations?

Decentralization of the DCASE granting model will be extremely beneficial as we continue to grant to local organizations with broad eligibility criteria for community social service-based organizations to then determine where those dollars go.

In terms of larger investments, the Park District is deeply committed to ensuring the developments with the cultural centers are driven by community wants, needs, and input and they have an excellent cultural planning program. We are determined to ensure communities have access to these spaces. We are optimistic that great progress will be made.

  • How can members not tapped for Working Groups participate in advancing the agenda?

The Ambassador role and sharing the work of the council with your networks is invaluable. There will also likely be additional ad-hoc groups in the future.

  • How clear can we be in our equity language as ARP funds are distributed.

Equity will be a driving force and we will have to follow governmental guidelines. We will use restrictions as effectively as we can moving forward.

  • How do we actualize the working groups, and will we be given additional information and context prior to meeting?

An invitation is forthcoming, and initiatives will be led by DCASE staff that have agency in different areas. Staff liaisons will also provide additional context and information regarding your specific areas of work.


Members offered the following comments:

  • This is a great opportunity to think about the evolution of Council work and the work of DCASE moving forward.
  • We must ensure we are advocating for the Latinx community as 44% have been affected by COVID-19. And we must ensure equity and inclusion across the board.
  • The progress of the Council is palpable and encouraging.


III. Mayoral Remarks and Discussion

Recovery and Reopening Strategies
Mayor Lori Lightfoot thanked everyone for joining and dispensed of her prepared remarks in the interest of an actual conversation with the council. She noted that prior to becoming Mayor, she was the only mayoral candidate to create an arts policy. Mayor Lightfoot stated that she understands and embraces the importance of arts and culture to our existence as human beings. She also understands the great economic force that the arts and culture community is to our city.

Mayor Lightfoot noted the absence of the creative community in the past year and the profound effects it’s had on our communities. Mayor Lightfoot was thrilled at the outpouring of joy after the announcement of the return of the arts and culture scene and is committed to championing the arts and culture sector in the wake of the pandemic.

Mayor Lightfoot introduced Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor of Neighborhood and Economic Development., joining her in the meeting.

Mayor Lightfoot then opened the floor for questions and comments. CAC members offered the following feedback:

  • Would you consider an Artist in Residence in the Mayor’s Office?

Mayor Lightfoot showed great interest in this idea and stated that she will have her team begin research to determine exactly what this might look like.

She also noted the City’s signature economic development program, INVEST S/W, and how we’ve made arts and culture part of the infrastructure. She commended Samir Mayekar and Erin Harkey for their work on this initiative.

Samir explained that millions of dollars - more than has ever been dedicated in the history of Chicago, is being dedicated toward public art as part of our infrastructure plan. Mayor Lightfoot advocated for this, and we will be launching RFPs to community artists to ensure funding streams to launch art, especially on the South and West side.

  • What is the “sweet spot” for the percentage of funding we should be dedicating to the city?

Mayor Lightfoot responded that she has been listening to the comments brought to her and First Lady Eshleman. She stated that that too much arts funding is tied to the hotel tax, a single revenue stream. Mayor Lightfoot hopes to fundamentally rethink this and is considering incorporating a dedicated line item in the corporate budget for arts.

She added that we have a unique opportunity with ARP and our own capital funding to think about a long-term shift ensuring dedicated funding for art, artists, and arts organizations.

  • What is the status of portable benefits type work? How do we stabilize creative workers in new industries, in addition to their creative practice?

Mayor Lightfoot stated that she needs to see data to better understand the myriad options artists are choosing to support themselves. She stated that her team has started discussing portable benefits and are working with national leadership on this. Mayor Lightfoot has been told that Philadelphia has the most mature system of portable benefits, and the policy team is working with them, and they are looking at it through the lens of domestic workers. She challenged her policy team to think about portable benefits for the gig economy as well, beyond just domestic workers. She advised council members to share ideas or best practice suggestions with Erin Harkey.

  • Chicago is such an incredible creative center, but the world doesn't necessarily know that, and the next administration may not hold the same values on the creative sector. Are we ready to capture and collect all the results of these great initiatives in all the different forms?

Mayor Lightfoot responded that we need to do a better job of marketing our incredible community to the world and to our own local communities. She stated that we need to break down the silos and create more opportunities to share our amazing collective talents.

Mayor Lightfoot understands that the city desperately needs an archival system for city government. She shared that her goal is to build a permanent set of expectations on issues, particularly around equity, that no future mayor will challenge. She ended her response by stating that there are things we can do to fundamentally upend the status quo.

  • Integrating CAC efforts across the work of the city is an important strategy to advancing this work. Can you elaborate on the education space and the reopening of schools in the short and longer- term, and comment on how the CAC work will support those efforts?

Mayor Lightfoot responded that she feels this work is essential as our youth need the ability to express themselves artistically, adding that the arts keep our youth connected, keeps them out of the streets, and helps them feel a sense of community. She added that we cannot think about educating our children without integrating arts and culture into that conversation.

Mayor Lightfoot has urged her team to think expansively about education - not just limited to CPS. In the meantime, we continue to support many great youth programs, such as: Artists in Schools, Mi Chi. My Future., and After School Matters.

Much of the Mayor’s public safety strategy this summer is dedicated to our local youth and getting them connected. The Chicago Police Department has identified 15 areas across the city that they believe, based upon historical crime data, are going to be some of the toughest areas for us to penetrate. A portion of the strategy to remedy this is to flood these areas with city resources, such as: city services, schools, parks, libraries, DFSS, and CDPH. We will be planting the seeds of hope and supporting the network of community-based organizations to reclaim these areas.

  • Regarding economic justice and inclusion, how do we address generational poverty? And how do we stem the tide of artists and others outside of the city?

In other cities, artists are incentivized to take existing blighted housing and commercial space and transform these spaces into studio space and collective retail and entrepreneurial space. What can we do to bring these types of ideas into fruition?

Mayor Lightfoot commended the council for sharing this great information. She stated that they have been contemplating how they're going to utilize American Rescue Plan resources toward a catalytic but fiscally responsible investment.

Mayor Lightfoot hopes to hold targeted town halls to allow for community input in different sectors and she welcomed CAC members to provide any ideas or suggestions on how we can make a difference in the life of this community of artists.

  • Lollapalooza is a major economic driver for our city, is it going to move forward this year?

Mayor Lightfoot responded to stay tuned.

Mayor Lightfoot commended everyone for their input. She asked for additional ideas to be shared with Commissioner Kelly and Erin Harkey, and she will then follow up on the ideas brought forward.

She asked the attendees to think about how to build citywide efforts around arts and culture events. She reminded everyone of the need for interdisciplinary working groups across different strands, and the need to partner with organizations like Choose Chicago to shine a brighter light on our great city.

Amina and Alison thanked Mayor Lightfoot and reflected on the opportunity ahead.


III. Next Steps

The next CAC meetings will take place on Aug 10, 2021, and Nov 9, 2021.


IV. Adjourn

The meeting adjourned at 5:15pm.