Cultural Advisory Council February 9, 2021 Meeting Minutes

Virtual Meeting


Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, chair; Alison Cuddy, vice chair; Paola Aguirre-Serrano, Juan Díes, Robert Faust, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Tracie D. Hall, Akilah Halley, Tempestt Hazel, Kevin Iega Jeff, Ginger Lane, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Josephine Lee, William Michel, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Claire C. Rice, Silvia Rivera, Jennifer A. Scott, Paul Sznewajs, Vivian Teng, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Sandra Delgado, Heather A. Miller, Myrna Salazar

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



I. Welcome and Introduction

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

Amina thanked everyone for joining the first Cultural Advisory Council meeting of 2021. She explained that the meeting was being held virtually due to COVID-19 pandemic conditions and is being held in accordance with Illinois Open Meetings Act requirements and current provisions for virtual participation in public meetings. For this meeting, this includes the ability to live stream to the general public via a link from the DCASE website, and the opportunity for members of the public to pre-register for public comment. Amina confirmed there were no requests for public comment received for this 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, Chief Marketing Officer Jamey Lundblad, Director of Cultural Grants Kalena Chevalier and Director of Public Art Lydia Ross for joining and Tara Vock and Nina Melendez for their support as staff liaisons to the Council.

Amina confirmed a quorum of Council members present for the meeting and then referenced the November 17, 2020 meeting minutes circulated in advance. Amina requested a motion to approve, with the minutes being unanimously approved by a show of hands.

Amina reviewed the agenda to introduce the next items for Council discussion, and then welcomed the DCASE team for updates.


II. 2021 CAC Priorities Presentation and Discussion

Public Art/Chicago Monuments Project

Deputy Commissioner Erin Harkey acknowledged DCASE staff and CAC members Cesáreo Moreno, Heather Miller, and Jennifer Scott for their work on the Chicago Monuments Project. The Chicago Monuments Advisory Committee began hosting community stakeholder conversations in January with approximately 250 stakeholders across key constituent groups, including the African American community, Disability community, Italian American community, Historic Preservation community, Latinx community, Native American community, Immigrant community, and the Youth community. These conversations discussed developing issues and priorities within each group, as the project framework was still in its development phase.

Erin highlighted some key takeaways from these conversations, which include:

  • The public is ready and eager to discuss these topics further.
  • There is a great need for public education surrounding Chicago’s founding narrative and history, especially with regard to stories told about our native communities.
  • There is great opportunity to engage communities who have traditionally been underrepresented or do not think this conversation is for them, including our immigrant communities.
  • This is a great opportunity to not only engage our youth in this conversation, but to center them in the dialogue, and empower them to take initiative and ownership moving forward.

Erin announced the approaching website launch for this project, which can be found at This website will be the main point of public engagement for the project, and it will also list all of the monuments that are currently under review. The public will be able to find opportunities to participate in future conversations on the website and there will also be opportunities for community groups to suggest partner programs or community dialogues to host. There will also be opportunities for artists and community groups to submit ideas for new projects.

Erin noted that all public participation engagements will help to inform the committee’s recommendations moving forward.

The first public program for this project was recently held as part of the Together We Heal initiative. CAC members Jennifer Scott and Cesáreo Moreno were joined by fellow Chicago Monuments Project committee members Adam Green and Santiago X, both of whom have done exemplary work on this project thus far. This public program can be viewed on the Together We Heal website.

Erin advised that there will be a more robust report in the next council meeting and that council members will learn more about their role in vetting the Advisory Committee’s public art collection recommendations. There will also be new developments with regard to forthcoming public art opportunities.


Questions and Comments

Amina stressed the importance of this topic and she advised members that this will be a large portion of the Councils focus for this year. She also displayed excitement toward the public art effort, and the additional resources and opportunities it will bring into the neighborhoods.


Advocacy & Awareness

Chief Marketing Officer Jamey Lundblad spoke to priority of public awareness and advocacy. The DCASE Marketing team began working with the City’s Chief Marketing Officer Michael Fassnacht, to develop a long-term public awareness campaign that will share a wide range of impact stories from Chicago’s arts and culture sector. The goal of this effort is to ensure that Chicago’s creative community is understood and appreciated as a part of the economic and social fabric of the city; especially as we work toward economic recovery post- pandemic.

This campaign will strive to highlight and celebrate the various ways in which the local arts sector enhances our city. Specific aspects of the sector, including arts education, tourism and neighborhood economic development will be highlighted and a call-to-action will be considered in an effort to increase the hiring of artists, expand audiences, and increase funding.

Marketing assets like short videos, social media tiles, infographics, digital billboards, transit ads, etc., will be created for use by the City, CAC members, friends, and partners to spread awareness.

Currently, different roles are being considered for CAC members such as community editorial board, creative review panel, marketing ambassadors and arts advocates, in partnership with Arts Alliance Illinois.


Questions and Comments

  • What is the process for CAC input on this campaign?

Jamey L. replied stating that there is not an official process just yet; however, CAC members are always welcome to share any ideas or updates regarding their respective organizations and/or communities. He added that they will be reaching out to everyone within this group for ideas and feedback when the time is right.

  • Confirming that the Mayor’s Office and DCASE will be in support of this full-scale campaign solely focused on culture and is one of a number of different strands of communication from the City over the course of the next year.

Jamey L replied that this is correct, adding that in a typical year, much of DCASE’s marketing resources are focused on promoting DCASE events. As DCASE will be doing less of that work this year, the team can now ensure that it tells more meaningful and deeper stories about Chicago's art sector; not just about one-off events, but about various aspects of what is done day-to-day.


Members commented the following:

  • While the City is considering larger pro-bono ad agencies, to consider strategies that will also include other creative marketing groups to allow for other organizations to also benefit from this opportunity.

Jamey L. agreed and expressed interest in further discussing this topic.

  • There was expressed concern regarding the many different community-focused campaigns in the works, wanting to ensure they are integrated, coordinated, and are focused on the asks of the community.

Jamey L. replied this campaign stating that it will be interlaced and interwoven with other active campaigns.

  • Members expressed great excitement toward the framework of the campaign.


Equitable, Accessible & Coordinated Government Resources

Special Projects Administrator Tara Vock then showcased ways in which the CAC can become more involved in DCASE work which includes:

  • Create specific roles for the CAC to provide input and feedback on services, permits and programs that DCASE manages to support artistic, creative and entertainment economies and practices
  • Provide opportunities for CAC to assess how DCASE programs and services are impacting artists and organizations and how effective they are in supporting the cultural landscape
  • Galvanize the CAC as DCASE ambassadors as work becomes more deeply embedded in the neighborhoods
  • Prioritize investment in cultural assets in our neighborhoods and support our Cultural Ecosystem initiatives

Director of Cultural Grants Kalena Chevalier then provided an overview of the state of DCASE grant programs. In the last four years, DCASE has grown its grants budget and programmatic offerings, and has more than doubled its general operating support for non-profits. DCASE has also increased its outreach efforts by developing partnerships with neighborhood cultural centers to co-host application assistance workshops and providing assistance in a variety of ways. DCASE grantees are now more reflective of the city with 55% of the individual artist grantees being BIPOC artists, and artists coming from 45 different wards.

The grants team hopes to continue to strive toward equity and continue to respond to community needs. In 2020, DCASE served as a partner in establishing the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund along with Arts Alliance Illinois, 3Arts, Arts Work Fund and the greater philanthropic community. This was a unique private-public partnership that allowed for funds to be efficiently pulled and distributed to artists and arts organizations. This relief fund created a contracting model for regranting partnerships that will allow for DCASE to partner with organizations that are better positioned to respond quickly to crises and the complex needs of individual communities and neighborhoods. Now that this model is in place, the grants team can move forward in creating similar partnerships to address other important needs.

Past assessments of DCASE grants work identified neighborhoods that remain under-resourced by DCASE grant programs, despite being densely populated with artists. As a result of these findings, the grants team began a series of listening sessions with neighborhood-based arts leaders to learn how to remedy this issue.

New programs for 2021 include the Artist Response Program and Neighborhood Access Program, both of which include direct grants, and re-granting partnerships with non-profits, SSAs and Chambers of Commerce, to manage grant-making within their own communities.

The DCASE grants team is interested in having additional CAC members become involved in their work. Some of the new opportunities for involvement include having CAC members:

  • Provide feedback on grant guidelines and applications as they are developed
  • Serve as community ambassadors in a variety of ways, including assist in setting up listening sessions, assist with the development of the neighborhood access program and other programs
  • Assist in setting up and promoting neighborhood-based open office hours
  • Co-host workshops with artist communities about grants and other programs
  • Assist as mentors for artists applying for grants and other DCASE opportunities


Artist Response Program

Director of Public Art Lydia Ross elaborated on the new Artist Response Program, explaining that it is a new partnership between the Public Art team and the Grants team. This program endeavors to support artists projects that engage the public in a constructive and civic dialogue that will propel our collective action, facilitate progress, and make the city a model for the nation. The team hopes to support ambitious and visionary projects that are here to meet the moment we are currently in.

There are two parts to this program, one of which includes a re-granting program in which we will explore organizations who are proposing regranting programs. These organizations will receive between $50,000 and $100,000 from DCASE with the understanding that they have a strategy in place to re-grant $1000 to $10,000 awards to artists in Chicago.

There is also the direct grant program, which will award up to 10 projects at a scale of $50,000-$100,000 dollars. These will be ambitious public art projects that address our current moment through an expansive range of creative approaches, including film, literary arts, media arts, social healing, economic justice, public health in mind as a priority, engaging communities in the South and West sides. Applications have now closed, and awardees will be announced in March.

DCASE is also trying to identify areas of support where DCASE can assist with professional development opportunities.

The Public Art Team invites CAC members to partake in public art opportunities.


Questions and Comments

Members expressed excitement toward DCASE’s neighborhood listening sessions and additional outreach to the communities; especially as a means to reach those who are not very tech-savvy and my not have computer access.


2021 CAC Priorities Discussion

Amina and Alison then asked CAC members for their thoughts on the three priorities.

Members asked the following questions:

  • CAC members who are also members of the Central City Recovery Taskforce inquired about the communications and intersections between committee work.

Commissioner Mark Kelly, who is also co-chair of the Central City Recovery Taskforce, stated that he enlisted five CAC members into the task force in an effort to bring the arts and culture viewpoint and move forward common interests. Mark added that the different committees are in dialogue with one another.


Members also provided the following feedback:

  • Members showed appreciation for the effort to grow the grants budget; however, advised that DCASE and the City re-think their budgets and strive to offer more support to the arts and culture scene.
  • Members asked for a list of DCASE opportunities available to them.
  • Reminder to use a racial equity lens on future work
  • How do we measure our progress?
  • How do we advocate to not return back to normal but instead create a new normal that is inclusive of all parts of the city as economic and artistic hubs, and not just the downtown area.
  • CARES Act funds and resources will be distributed shortly, and it is important to think about how we can advocate for the arts, community artists and supporting cultural production in our neighborhoods.
  • There is a need to be more explicit with communicating how the arts are a driver for economic recovery.


III. DCASE Leadership Update

Recovery and Reopening Strategies

Commissioner Mark Kelly then presented DCASE’s recovery and reopening strategies. DCASE hopes to position the city’s cultural vitality as a driving force in its post-pandemic economic recovery. They will extend the Central District’s cultural life out to the neighborhoods and will endeavor to tell the stories of Chicago’s rich cultural landscape. DCASE hopes to continue working in partnership with sister agencies, such as Chicago Park District Chicago public Library and the Department of Planning and Development, to continue improving synergistic output.

DCASE will convene the cultural landscape to bring synergy to planning efforts as the City reopens. Choose Chicago will partner with DCASE to deliver a richer story about the cultural life of the city.

Beginning in June, DCASE will begin low-fi programming in Millennium Park, Night Out in the Parks, Summer Dance in the neighborhoods, Year of Chicago Band Roster events and Taste of Chicago in the neighborhoods.

Major new and exciting public art initiatives will be announced shortly for public art in the neighborhood with a focus on the South and West sides.

DCASE is supporting artists with the Band Roster Initiative, public art initiatives, IAP grants, hiring local for large-scale events, providing professional development programs and workforce development for the local film industry.



Amina then asked CAC members to provide input in how DCASEs' strategies align with working group priorities and she also asked what will need to be done in order to move further into action in partnership with DCASE.

Members offered the following questions:

  • DCASE has had to endure recent departmental budget cuts; however, has also announced new major initiatives with million-dollar budgets. Please clarify how the new initiatives reconcile with DCASE’s budget.

DCASE has found new partnerships with city agencies and now has additional support within the capital and corporate budget and through new donor relationships.

  • Have there been any conversations regarding aligning vaccine distribution with the arts?

Arts Alliance Illinois has been in communication with the City and State to gauge interest in a broad vaccine campaign that will include PSAs facilitated by artists. Local groups such as the Chicago Peace Fellows are also working to provide performances at vaccine distribution events.

  • What kind of support has DCASE seen from City Hall since having to shift priorities in the wake of the pandemic?

There has been complete encouragement and support from the City Hall.


CAC members added the following comments:

  • DCASE is on the right trajectory with grants being distributed more broadly across the city to a much more representative group of artists.
  • CAC should consider holding Zoom discussions to begin opening important dialogues within our communities.


Council members spoke greatly about how to measure progress and provided the following feedback regarding metrics:

  • One measure of success is the number of local artists that have been hired pre-pandemic vs. post-pandemic
  • We need to think about investment in communities in the aggregate, at the artist level, institutional level, neighborhood level, etc.
  • Another point of measure will be the distributed approach of the Taste of Chicago
  • We need to ensure people are speaking to progress at listening sessions. While quantitative aspects can be measured and analyzed over time, the qualitative aspects are just as important.
    • How many of those metrics can we feasibly measure over the course of the year?
    • How are people perceiving a change in attention to their work to their opportunities to investment in their neighborhoods?
  • DCASE has been working with Bloomberg’s Cultural Asset team on a comprehensive data collection project that may be of use for this effort.

There were no further comments, observations, or recommendations for DCASE, thus Amina moved to discuss next steps with the Council.


IV. Next steps

Amina asked that DCASE provide Council members with more information on where CAC support is needed and how. She also asked how CAC will need to reorganize in order to ensure that they are in support of DCASE’s new reopening strategies. Commissioner Kelly stated that DCASE will provide more information to them and will be sure to articulate the any and all pathways where CAC can play a specific role. DCASE will also let the Council know where members are involved throughout the agency.

Alison delivered some final thoughts to close out the meeting adding that learning exactly where CAC members are currently involved will help to move the Council forward in a positive direction. She reiterated one of the key findings from the advocacy working group which highlighted the disconnect between the people's support for art and culture, but not displaying the same support for artists. She asked how we can we leverage the new initiatives around artists for broader support and awareness.

Alison also spoke to cultural asset maps and how they will be a wonderful tool in measuring the success of these new initiatives.

Amina added that there is the opportunity for stories within each of our individual organizations and neighborhoods; capturing, and documenting the stories of how artists are working, changes that they are making, artists that we are supporting, or students that we are training, etc. Jamie will provide Amina and Alison with a list of the kinds of the stories we would like to tell so that members can begin the work on this effort.

The idea of continuing or expanding the working groups was mentioned, and Amina committed to discussing this further with the DCASE team.

Amina and Alison gave a final thank you to everyone for their work and reminded the group that the next CAC meeting is on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.


V. Adjourn

The meeting adjourned at 5:00pm.