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Meeting minutes were approved at the Cultural Advisory Council Meeting on Tuesday, December 3 at the Chicago Cultural Center's 5th Floor Millennium Park Room, 4-5pm.
Cultural Advisory Council ("CAC") Members: Chair Nora Daley, Vice Chair Marj Halperin, Antonia Contro, Baraka de Soleil, Ra Joy, Eileen LaCario, Sheila O’Grady, Deborah Rutter, Jane Saks, Roell Schmidt, Howard Tullman and Ernest Wong.
Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ("DCASE") Staff: Commissioner Michelle T. Boone, Julie Burros, David Kennedy, Jamey Lundblad, Jewel Malone, David McDermott, Kenya Merritt, Matt Nielson, Sue Vopicka and Angel Ysaguirre.
Other: Jim Lasko, Executive Artistic Director, Redmoon; and Rebecca Rugg, Producer, Great Chicago Fire Festival.
Nora Daley called the meeting to order and stated that as there was not yet a quorum of eleven members in attendance, the approval of the minutes from the CAC meeting on September 10, 2013, would be deferred. She congratulated Howard Tullman on his recent appointment as Chief Executive Officer of 1871.
Kenya Merritt gave a brief overview of DCASE’s 2014 budget. Commissioner Boone said that DCASE’s recent City Council 2014 Budget Hearing was really positive. She said that the Aldermen greatly appreciate the expanded reach of DCASE’s programming into the neighborhoods and the new initiatives DCASE has slated for 2014. She said that DCASE received many congratulations and kudos from the Aldermen and that all in all it was a very informed conversation. She also said how grateful she was that Mayor Emanuel and the Office of Budget and Management allocated additional funds for the continued implementation of the Chicago Cultural Plan. Commissioner Boone said that just one year since it was released, more than half of the Plan’s recommendations had been accomplished. She then asked Julie Burros, Director of Cultural Planning, to give the CAC members a quick one-year summary and highlights of the Plan’s implementation.
Julie Burros said that all the members of the CAC had a hand in creating the Plan and in the past year they all had a role in implementing it as well. She said that she was pleased to announce that on November 1, 2013, the Chicago Cultural Plan was awarded the 2014 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning, presented by the Metropolitan Planning Council. She reminded the CAC members that the Plan contains four over-arching categories – People, Places, Policies, and Planning Culturally, and ten priorities.
Julie said that with regard to Priority One – Foster Arts Education & Lifelong Learning – one of the accomplishments of the Plan was that there are now 556 cultural liaisons in the Chicago Public Schools, for a total of 88 percent of the schools. These cultural liaisons enable DCASE to gather and tally data, such as how many arts partners are involved, how many minutes of instruction students receive, and how all of the schools are doing in terms of incorporating the arts into their curriculum.
Julie said that with regard to Priority Two – Attract & Retain Artists and Creative Professionals – DCASE re-launched its Grants program and increased staffing in its Creative Industries division. She said that Kickstarter campaigns with Seed Chicago, an initiative of Mayor Emanuel’s Plan for Economic Growth & Jobs, developed through a partnership with Accion Chicago and World Business Chicago to assess and expand Chicago's economy, raised over $8.5 million Kickstarter dollars in Chicago in calendar year 2012.
Julie said that with regard to Priority Three – Elevate & Expand Neighborhood Cultural Assets – DCASE has expanded many of its most popular programs – such as the Gospel Music Festival, Chicago SummerDance, Farmers Markets, Chicago Artists Month, Juicebox, etc. - into the neighborhoods, helping to maximize Chicagoans’ opportunities to participate in the arts and culture.
Julie said that some of the accomplishments related to Priority Four – Facilitate Neighborhood Cultural Planning – include the groundbreaking of The 606 and Bloomingdale Trail, the formation of a new cultural council in Rogers Park, and providing shuttles to the Englewood Jazz Festival. She said that these initiatives help to support grassroots neighborhood cultural planning and recognize, support and enhance vibrant cultural districts.
With regard to Priority Five – Strengthen the Capacity of the Cultural Sector – Julie said that some of the Plan’s accomplishments include grant support to arts service agencies, convening Chicago’s large cultural institutions to discuss new methods of City support and the convening of a Chicago Fashion Industry Town Hall that will help define the future strategy of DCASE initiatives for the fashion industry.
With regard to Priority Six – Optimize City Policies & Regulations – Julie said that three wards now have arts coordinators, with the hope that by this time next year, each of the 50 wards will have one. She also said that DCASE is working with the Department of Innovation and Technology to put cultural datasets online.
With regard to Priority Seven – Promote the Value & Impact of Culture – Julie mentioned as accomplishments research on Cultural Vitality Indicators and the forthcoming stewardship of the Chicago Cultural Plan with Arts Alliance Illinois to promote the value of the arts and help to effectively communicate the impact of culture on Chicago’s vitality across civic goals such as economic development, public safety, public health, and strong neighborhoods and communities.
With regard to Priority Eight – Strengthen Chicago as a Global Cultural Destination – Julie mentioned the following as accomplishments: the launch of Chicago Theatre Week, presented by the League of Chicago Theatres and Choose Chicago, which gave thousands of people the opportunity to sample the extraordinary range of theatrical offerings throughout Chicago; and Chicago Restaurant Week 2013, a Choose Chicago partnership program designed to promote the restaurant industry and drive traffic to participating establishments during a typically slow time of year. With 286 participating restaurants throughout Chicagoland, an 8-percent increase in participation over 2012, the impact of the promotion was more than $26.9 million in direct dining spending in Chicago area restaurants, serving 513,000+ diners over the course of ten days. Julie said initiatives such as these strengthen Chicago’s regional and international brand through its cultural assets.
With regard to Priority Nine – Foster Cultural Innovation – Julie mentioned Music Hack Day, which took place during the Chicago Music Summit, as an accomplishment of the Plan. She said that Music Hack Day was a time for developers, designers, programmers, industry insiders and musicians to come together to create new and unique music applications. Julie said that the weekend began with participating organizations presenting relevant music technology of interest to hackers, followed by more in-depth workshops, where organizations showed attendees how to use their technology and answer any questions. Once the workshops were completed, the clock started; hackers had until Sunday afternoon to make their idea real. Late Sunday afternoon, hackers were given the opportunity to present their hacks to the overall group. Julie mentioned that 1871 hosts weekly civic hack events, further fostering innovation.
Finally, with regard to Priority Ten – Integrate Culture into Daily Life – Julie mentioned that incorporating culture into other City plans such as the Department of Public Health’s Healthy Chicago, the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Pedestrian Plan, etc. – is a major accomplishment and that DCASE is at the table in ways we never were before as other departments and agencies acknowledge our work in their plans. She said that this creates a mutually beneficial synergy between cultural and civic efforts citywide.
Julie concluded her presentation by mentioning upcoming projects – the release of a Cultural Tourism Strategy, an RFP for People Spots and Plazas, an increased web presence for Creative Industries, the continued development of the Great Chicago Fire Festival, the development of the Museum Campus South, the celebration of the Centennial of the Great Migration, and more support for cultural districts such as Uptown and Cermak.
Ernest Wong asked Julie what grade she would give the Plan’s implementation thus far. Julie replied by saying that she would give it a pretty good grade as 50 percent of the Plan’s initiatives were addressed in year one, which she thought was extraordinary. She said that some of the accomplishments were over or complete, and that some are ongoing. She said that a research project her cultural policy students at DePaul University worked on shows that the results obtained by other cities that have undertaken cultural plans are not good overall with the exception of Austin, Texas. She said that other cities have not seen great successes.
Ernest Wong asked if there was a measure of how this all turns into revenue for the City of Chicago. Julie said that that is something DCASE is looking into and will work on with our stewardship partner Arts Alliance Illinois.
Nora Daley stressed that the Chicago Cultural Plan is not DCASE’s plan, nor the City of Chicago’s plan, to implement – she said that the plan belongs to the larger arts community and it is up to them to determine how they can help with its implementation and keep its continued development on track. She said that it can also be used as a benchmark to keep DCASE on track with its work as the Plan contains the initiatives and priorities that the people of Chicago have stated they want.
Julie Burros said that the work of the Plan will also be continued by the arts coordinators in the wards and local arts councils, many of which were formed when neighborhood residents met during the planning stages of the Plan at a town hall or neighborhood gathering. She said that many of these organizations went on to participate in events such as Chicago Artists Month, therefore helping to foster the goals of the Plan.
Nora Daley thanked Julie and introduced Jim Lasko and Rebecca Rugg of Redmoon to talk about the Great Chicago Fire Festival (“GCFF”).
Jim Lasko began by acknowledging the CAC members and DCASE staff in attendance stating that he had worked with many of them over the years. He said that the Great Chicago Fire Festival is something he had thought about for a long time. He said that the GCFF dovetails perfectly into the Chicago Cultural Plan and congratulated everyone on the Plan as a spot-on analysis of how culture can be so amazingly integrated into the city’s neighborhoods. He said that the GCFF is admittedly an audacious and ephemeral undertaking designed to demonstrate the grit and resiliency of the Chicagoans who rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire. He said that by 1893, Chicago was at the center of the world’s attention as the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition. He said that he hopes that what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans and the Running of the Bulls is to Pamplona, that’s what the Great Chicago Fire Festival will become to Chicago.
Jim said that in October 2014, Redmoon’s inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival, in partnership with the City of Chicago, will introduce an annual urban ritual to our city, in the form of a massive citywide event celebrating Chicago’s powerful spirit of resilience.
Jim explained that the building blocks of the Great Chicago Fire Festival will come from the city’s neighborhoods. The festival will begin in communities throughout Chicago and converge downtown through the conduit of the Chicago River, reflecting and celebrating Chicago as a city of neighborhoods. He said that citizens of these communities will work hand-in-hand with local artist-facilitators commissioned by the Great Chicago Fire Festival to create open access art, showcasing Chicago’s cultural assets and heritage. He said that the art created at these public sites in the chosen communities will be brought to the Chicago River where it will transform into a fire spectacle on the main branch of the Chicago River. He said that tens of thousands will watch from Chicago’s newly developed downtown riverfront as burning floats, music, and acrobatics culminate in an urban ritual celebrating Chicago’s unique history and future.
Jim said that the festival will activate fifteen Chicago neighborhoods through in-depth, site-specific arts programming leading up to the festival, called “Summer Celebrations.” These arts activities will consist of a wide range of programming, including community barbeques, photography projects, sculptural builds, bake sales, and Redmoon’s transformative machinery.
Jim said that Redmoon will work closely with community-based organizations, local artists and community organizers in these neighborhoods to produce the Summer Celebrations. He said that Redmoon is known for its collaborative process that brings together community leaders, diverse groups of participants, artists, and non-artist experts from a variety of disciplines in the creation of interactive, spontaneous, urban spectacle and that building on Redmoon’s core mission of shaping performances to public spaces and providing art to underserved areas, the Great Chicago Fire Festival will be a great chance for Redmoon to operate on the scale of the city.
Jim said that the Great Chicago Fire Festival blends neighborhood engagements with large-scale spectacles by creating a massive fire spectacle on the Chicago River generated, in part, by long-term engagements within Chicago’s neighborhoods. He said that Redmoon will work in tandem with community-based organizations from fifteen different underserved neighborhoods to create a festival that is truly representative of the diverse people of Chicago.
Baraka de Soleil asked the dates of the festival, and Jim said that the date would be Saturday, October 4, 2014. Marj Halperin mentioned that an RFP was put out seeking community-based organizations (“CBOs”) to be part of the GCFF.
Rebecca Rugg stated that the RFP went out right before Thanksgiving seeking community-based organizations to participate along with Redmoon’s core partners - the Chicago Park District, Family Focus, Cure Violence, and Young Chicago Authors - in Sidewalk Senates in 15 aldermanic wards over the course of summer 2014. She said that Sidewalk Senates will gather communities for arts activities that are designed to discover and tell the stories of each ward. She said that the Senates will include 6 – 8 months of events for CBOs selected through the application process and events open to the public.
Rebecca said that the core partners already have programs running and involving CBOs that are arts organizations as well as organizations that have nothing to do with the arts will create a multi-layered partnership. She said that the RFP process will reveal new partners to Redmoon, creating a new and complex network. Rebecca said that the RFP deadline is December 19, 2013.
Ra Joy asked what the relationship was between Redmoon and the City in pulling off the GCFF. Rebecca replied that Redmoon and the City were working in partnership. She said that it has been amazing to work with Michelle Boone and that she is an amazing leader. Rebecca said that it has also been great to work with DCASE staff. Commissioner Boone said that the GCFF will be presented by Redmoon in partnership with DCASE. She said that while the festival is not owned and operated by the City of Chicago, she and Mayor Emanuel are both enthusiastic boosters committed to the festival’s success. She said that DCASE was able to work with other City departments to help facilitate the GCFF, such as the Department of Transportation for the use of the Chicago River and the Riverwalk and the Chicago Police and Fire Departments for permitting and approvals. She said that DCASE will provide $100,000 to Redmoon for the planning and development of artistic and cultural programming for the festival.
Commissioner Boone said that the GCFF will be the first major project to take place on the newly developed Chicago Riverwalk and the launch of the festival will activate the Chicago River, one of our city’s greatest and most overlooked assets. She said that the GCFF will also take art out into the communities.
Nora Daley asked how many years the festival is slotted for. Jim Lasko said that Redmoon has a three-year commitment from the City to prove that the GCFF can become an annual tradition. Eileen LaCario asked if the festival would take place on just one day. Jim replied that the launch party at Redmoon’s Pilsen warehouse would take place on October 3, 2014, and the Grand Spectacle on the river’s Main Branch, between State and Columbus, would take place on October 4, 2014.
Eileen LaCario asked when the GCFF would be promoted. She said that it is so new and that she has a hard time understanding it even after hearing about it several times. Jim Lasko replied that Digitas was working on a pro bono marketing campaign and website. He said that Redmoon was also working with WCIU, The U, on a marketing campaign and that The U would broadcast the Grand Spectacle live. He said that DCASE and Choose Chicago were also partnering on the promotion of the Festival. Ms. LaCario also asked when ancillary programs would be rolled out. Jim replied that conversations were currently taking place. He said that, for example, the GCFF would be part of the 3rd grade curriculum in all Chicago Public Schools. Rebecca Rugg mentioned that the Chicago Public Library agreed to present workshops where participants can cut out and decorate “Fire Flowers” (pinwheels in the shape of lotus flowers). She said that participants can write a wish on their Fire Flowers, which will be gathered so they can later be assembled into an art piece.
Nora Daley said that there was now a quorum of eleven and the minutes from the CAC meeting on September 10, 2013, were unanimously approved. Nora asked if there were any announcements.
Marj Halperin mentioned that Sue Vopicka would coordinate a tour of The 606 for CAC members and would reach out soon with a date. She said that friends of the late Helen Doria raised funds for a dedicated performance stage. She said that she was excited to announce challenge grants totaling $2.1 million, giving donors an opportunity to double – or even triple – their contributions to The 606. She said that the Alphawood Foundation joined with an anonymous donor to set up a generous match for contributors to The 606 Mix & Match Campaign, The Trust for Public Land’s new component of the ongoing fundraising drive that will maximize contributions large and small.
Marj said that Alphawood’s donation will match contributions of six figures or more, up to $2 million total - and the first to earn that match is an anonymous donor who will, in turn, match smaller donations of $10 to $10,000, up to $100,000 total. She said that the bottom line is that high-dollar donors will double their impact with a match from Alphawood and those who give smaller donations will triple their impact with a match from both the anonymous donor and Alphawood. Marj said to contact her for further details.
Roell Schmidt said that the month-long Extinct Entities Festival curated by Links Hall staff would kick off in January at Links Hall at Constellation and would include a new performance installation by CAC member Baraka de Soleil.
Nora Daley adjourned the meeting.
Respectfully submitted, Sue Vopicka