Cultural Advisory Council August 10, 2021 Meeting Minutes

Virtual Meeting


Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members:

Present: Amina Dickerson, Chair; Alison Cuddy, Vice-Chair; Juan Díes, Brooke Flanagan, Robert Gomez, Esther Grimm, Tracie D. Hall, Akilah Halley, Tempestt Hazel, Kevin Iega Jeff, Ginger Lane, Josephine Lee, William Michel, Heather A. Miller, Cesáreo Moreno, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Coya Paz, Silvia Rivera, Vivian Teng, Omar Torres-Kortright, Tanner Woodford

Absent: Sandra Delgado, Robert Faust, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Claire C. Rice, Myrna Salazar, Jennifer A. Scott, Paola Aguirre-Serrano, Paul Sznewajs

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

Mayor’s Office: Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot



I. Welcome and Introduction

CAC Chair, Amina Dickerson, opened the meeting of the Cultural Advisory Council. Attendees were welcomed and advised of 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 greeted and thanked Council members and DCASE staff for joining. Alison provided a brief overview of the virtual meeting process. A quorum of Council members was confirmed and the May 11th, 2021, meeting minutes were approved by unanimous vote.


II. DCASE Leadership Updates

DCASE Overview

DCASE Commissioner, Mark Kelly reflected on the great work of DCASE and its strong position in supporting the cultural landscape moving forward.

DCASE is currently working on the 2022 DCASE budget. Some of the vital initiatives in this new budget include:

  • Returning to pre-pandemic, 2019 budget levels
  • Restoring 11 staff positions
  • Increasing the cultural grants budget
  • Allocating millions in ARP funds to arts recovery
  • Providing additional funding to the Chicago Film Office through film permitting fees

Commissioner Kelly reflected on the 60-million-dollar Arts 77 investment across the city. Arts77 was developed to expand access and participation in the arts, prioritize employment of creative workers through City programs and services, and deepen public sector investment in the creative sector.

DCASE will continue in its trajectory of prioritizing equity in all components of its work. The department will also prioritize increasing its support of neighborhood vitality, its focus on cultural grants and resources, its focus on public art as a defining characteristic of our city and its focus on professional workforce development grants. DCASE will also continue to champion film production as a dynamic growth industry.

The additional funds that DCASE has raised in 2021 include:

  • $7M to Public Art
  • $7M to Facilities and Security
  • $6M to Artists Relief, Recovery and Programming
  • $30M to Culture In My Neighborhoods

Commissioner Kelly commended the increase in the grants program budget, which increased by 59% in 2020 from $1.7M to $2.7M. An additional $1.75M in philanthropic and City support was allocated to relief fund and grant support, bringing DCASE’s total grants budget to $4.45M in 2020. The grants budget in 2021 is currently $7.3M and a new $2.3M relief fund will launch in September of 2021 for artists and creative workers.

Commissioner Kelly lastly provided a brief overview of current DCASE initiatives including DCASE’s annual creative sector themes, Chicago in Tune, and the Chicago Band Roster.


Expanding Access

First Deputy Commissioner, Erin Harkey began her presentation by providing a high-level overview of DCASE’s accomplishments in expanding access, artist employment and cultural policy since the launch of Arts77.

DCASE successfully pivoted its large festivals into the neighborhoods in partnership with local elected officials and cultural organizations. DCASE either directly produced or funded close to 200 neighborhood programs this summer, almost exclusively on the south and west sides of the city, including House City, Taste of Chicago To-Go, Chicago SummerDance, and a series of blues events in Bronzeville. These smaller community-based engagements have allowed the DCASE team the opportunity to establish deeper and more meaningful connections with local communities.

DCASE launched Chicago Presents and the Band Roster which has supported 54 independently produced events, sponsored by local chambers, music venues and non-profits. Over 30 bands and musicians have been hired from the Band Roster and DCASE is excited to see this program continue to prosper.

DCASE also launched a new pilot grant program called the Neighborhood Access fund in which they took a new approach to this grant allowing for a broader eligibility criteria focusing on specific neighborhood geographies lacking arts funding. DCASE received 220 idea submissions of which 82 of those were invited to submit full proposals. DCASE hopes to fund at least 50% of these.


Putting Artists to Work

In partnership with the Design Museum, DCASE launched an artist-led vaccination campaign with assistance from CDPH and Flowers Communication. This initiative will include a series of murals and community-based projects later this year.

Erin commended the work of DCASE Director of Public Art, Lydia Ross for her assistance in the facilitation of the $18.5M public art program in connection with capital improvements. The public art team has been working with the Department of Aviation on the O’Hare Terminal 5 Expansion Project which will commission over 25 artists in the largest single acquisition of works created by Chicagoland artists for the city in the last 30 years. These works of art will bring a welcoming experience to visitors of Chicago ensuring their arrival to a cultural capital.


Cultural Policy

Engagements will soon begin for $15M in capital plan funds largely focused on developing art projects on the south and west sides. CAC member, Paola Aguirre will help lead this program.

Engagements for the first citywide plan since 1966 called We Will Chicago will soon begin with Honey Pot Performance assisting in managing a team of 30 artists who will lead community engagements amongst the seven core pillars: Arts & Culture, Economic Development, Environmental Climate and Energy, Housing and Neighborhoods, Lifelong Learning, Public Health and Safety, and Transportation and Infrastructure. A mobile team will be activated to traverse community events in concentrated geographies; and The Arts and Culture Research Team will host specific engagements that will include community partners, such as the Chicago Cultural Alliance, My Block My Hood My City, and En Las Tablas.

DCASE has started to spend more time in research and evaluation in an effort to discover new strategic directions, funding strategies and funding avenues. The goal is to ensure that policy and program decisions are data driven moving forward. DCASE has also worked with the Chicago Park District and Free Street Theater on the Cultural Asset Mapping Project [C.A.M.P.] and is also working with Bloomberg Philanthropies on an arts funding SMU data project.

There is an open Artist in Residence call currently at the Legler Library for a 2-year residency. Artist Chris Pappan participated in a soft launch earlier this year.


Chicago Monuments Project

Over 30,000 people have visited the Chicago Monuments Project website. The project has supported over 25 community-led programs produced by local organizations attended by over 1,500 people.

DCASE has hired Metris Consulting to synthesize the collected data and produce a report that will cover a range of creative options to address immediate and long-term collection management, engagement, and development programs. The report will also include substantial recommendations for cultural policy.


Awareness and Advocacy

Chief Marketing Officer, Jamey Lundblad shared that DCASE is working with global PR agency FleishmanHillard on a public awareness and advocacy campaign for Chicago’s arts sector. The objectives of the campaign include ensuring the general public and civic leaders believe a vibrant arts landscape is fundamental to the future of our city; seeing an increase in citywide participation in the arts; and seeing increased consideration in making arts funding a priority in Chicago. The campaign will also stress that creativity, culture, and community are essential to our city’s future both post-pandemic and in the long term. It will display Chicago’s most powerful and compelling narrative as our creative community. And it will stress the importance of arts and culture accessibility, regardless of background or zip code.

DCASE is also working on four other campaigns, including a public awareness campaign called ChicagoMade that will highlight the local tv and film industry; created in partnership with the Chicago Film Office and creative agency: Simple Truth. DCASE is working on three major campaigns with Choose Chicago, including a regional and national campaign for the new Chicago In Tune music festival - positioning Chicago as a top music destination in the USA. The other campaigns include a fall campaign celebrating Chicago theater and dance during the month of October, and a holiday campaign in November and December to celebrate the holiday season.


III. Working Group Reports and Discussion

CAC member, Akilah Halley represented working group #1 which explored the expansion of access and participation in the arts citywide. This team researched the intersection of cultural vibrancy of neighborhoods and grant programs as tools to support the collective of communities, organizations, and artists. The team looked at access to space that centers collaboration over competition for physical buildings and shared spaces; opportunities that center the co-creation of pathways for young people to participate in and build careers in the arts; and information by centering multi-generational knowledge sharing and recognizing a need for people and systems.

The working group’s recommendations include reimagining the grant making cycle to build bridges with underrepresented artists and communities. Overall recommendations include:

I. Further exploring barriers of participation and understanding the use of funds

o Ensuring flexibility of the application process

o Fostering opportunities to share out and discuss the learnings for orgs that receive funding

o Fostering opportunities to fund collaborations between artists and among organizations

II. Convene forums

o Fostering intergenerational knowledge sharing on the evolution of local arts - recognizing how far we’ve come and how far we can go together

o Provide pathways to youth employment experience that will lead to sustainable careers in the arts

o Centering youth voice in leadership in the design and implementation of these programs

o Connecting to the role of advocacy and securing larger public-private funds as a true investment in the next generation

CAC member, Coya Paz represented working group #2 which focused on prioritizing employment of creative workers through city programs and services. The framing question was “how do we increase the visibility of artists as creative problem solvers that inform, enhance and support the work of all city departments?” This group tried to focus on what DCASE is already doing and how the CAC can support what is already in progress. Recommendations from this group include:

  • Researching how the CAC can be empowered as neighborhood ambassadors and how to move forward in this role
  • Advocating for a stand-alone DCASE website.
  • Research how to embed artists in city programs and how the CAC can help
  • Research how to better promote, share-out and celebrate DCASE programs


CAC member, Esther Grimm represented working group #3 in which they were asked to think about how to deepen public sector investment in the creative sector. This working group had the following recommendations stretched across sectors:

  • Desire for arts education to be mandated in schools and restored to the core curriculum
  • Ensuring arts funding is not dependent upon one funding source only
  • A city resolution or proclamation to declare art as central to Chicago with an emphasis on increasing investment to support equitable arts citywide
  • Expanding Artists in Residence civic opportunities including salary and benefits
  • Connect artists to other large-scale services and programs such as the vacant lot beautification program
  • Portable benefits for artist gig work
  • Investments in entrepreneurs and incubator programs in neighborhoods
  • Subsidized housing, low-interest loans, and rent stabilization
  • Incentives and supports to grow arts industries
  • Analyzing wages and benefits for creative workers (where are we and where do we need to go)
  • Researching other city arts funding models


IV. Discussion with Mayor Lightfoot

Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined for a brief discussion with Council members. She stated her excitement for the full reopening of arts and culture this fall. She thanked both DCASE and the extended arts community for bringing Arts77 to life. She reiterated her commitment to adding a line item in the 2022 budget - and thereafter, that supports and dramatically increases DCASE’s cultural grants budget to support organizations and artists across the city. Mayor Lightfoot expressed her appreciation for the feedback received on ways to utilize arts funding creatively and in transformative ways.

Mayor Lightfoot took a moment to mention the difficult week for our city with the recent shooting of two Chicago police officers. She reminded everyone that the police are not our enemies. She noted our common enemy: gangs, guns, poverty, and disinvestment. Mayor Lightfoot stressed vital importance of unity moving forward.


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

  • Do you see Chicago events taking place indoors this fall/winter?

We will likely not go back to where we were in 2020 with shutdowns and closures. We will likely mandate vaccinations with testing options. We are in a very different place than we were a year ago.

  • What is the status on vaccination mandates for events?

The City of Chicago pressed event planning organizations to require vaccinations or testing for entry and these organizations executed their protocols very well. The vaccines continue to work very well against the Delta variant and the current numbers coming out of larger festivals are relatively modest. The hope is that ty hopes to push vaccinations to your networks.

  • Local artists benefited greatly from city festivals like World Music Fest and Jazz Fest. What is the status of these larger city-managed festivals?

We do not have the funding for these at the moment. We have to be realistic about our resources and bandwidth and we made the decision to focus on our local neighborhoods and the hiring of our local musicians. These festivals will return but they will take place across the city including in the central business district and will involve local venues and communities.

  • CAC members suggested that there be a proclamation or resolution, a stated commitment that was voted on by the municipal body that set a vision and anchor for all the work of DCASE. The proclamation should include actionable bullet points that we can return to and be proud of as a city. It will address the importance of investment and equitable arts investment in 77 communities with meaningful resources.

Mayor Lightfoot asked that the CAC have a draft resolution ready by the beginning of September, to be read and adopted at the September City Council meeting, to use as a springboard for the 2022 budget. The mayor suggested that CAC members connect with Erin Harkey on this effort.



  • Members offered gratitude for the recent investments made by the Lightfoot administration
  • A reminder of the need for increased investment in annualized cultural grants and ARP funds to help our post-pandemic success
  • Suggestion for Choose Chicago to supplement the work of DCASE
  • A suggestion for the mayor to host an arts and culture community town hall
  • Members commended Mayor Lightfoot for her great vision and DCASE’s superb execution of it
  • The Pullman/ Roseland community was elated with Taste To-Go in their neighborhood. Members suggest residual pop-ups in the neighborhood to continue the high energy neighborhood response. They suggest utilizing vacant storefronts in this effort.


V. Next Steps

The next CAC meeting is scheduled for 11/09/21 at 3:00pm CT.


VI. Adjourn

The meeting ended at 5:25 pm.