The Cultural Plan for the City of Chicago
In the past year The City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has been working to create the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012. Over 4,700 Chicagoans actively participated in person in the creation of this plan. Thousands more participated virtually.
The DCASE solicited public feedback through:
• 8 town hall meetings
• 20 neighborhood cultural conversations
• Ongoing social media exchanges
• 10 cultural sector meetings to concentrate analysis
• 2 global forums of urban and thought leaders
• Numerous one-on-one stakeholder interviews
• Independently convened, discipline-specific sector meetings
• A Cultural Plan website and blog
This plan was created to address distinct objectives specific to a city’s cultural sector, including all art forms and heritage, creative industries and resource providers. In the following weeks, Homeroom will be summarizing the main categories from the plan (People, Places, Policies, and Planning Culturally) and pinpointing how the initiatives in those categories pertain to Homeroom and cultural community that we operate in.
This week we are focusing on “People”. Read our summary and assessment below.
Chicago’s culture relies on creative Chicagoans and their contribution to the city’s economy. The plan highlights two specific priorities that will build on the human resource capital for culture:
Priority: Arts education for all Chicago and create opportunities for lifelong learning
The purpose of this priority is to have arts education available for all residents at all stages of life. The focus of this priority is on all Chicago Public Schools and their arts curriculum, their cultural enrichment opportunities, arts funding, advocacy for K-12 arts education, and citywide collaborations to sustain arts education efforts.
Homeroom’s Emerging and Established Artist Exchange (EEE) is a great example on how Homeroom has been striving to enrich the lives of students who are artistically driven. EEE gives students who are serious about a specific field of the arts a realistic experience of what it is like working in Chicago. EEE is available to both high school and college students, so our hope is that emphasis on this area will strengthen EEE. In the past, Homeroom has had trouble accessing high school students to encourage them to apply for the program. With a renewed drive for arts education for all Chicagoans, we hope EEE will find a place in the city as a program that offers a unique arts learning experience to aspiring artists.
Priority: Attract and retain artists and creative professionals
The purpose of this priority is to attract, sustain and nurture artists and creative professionals in Chicago. The focus of this priority is to obtain and maintain Chicago artists through funding, effective communication for creative professionals, as well as resources such as space needs and professional development.
We certainly applaud this priority as it correlates directly with our operational philosophy: “Homeroom promotes artistic experimentation and growth by liberating artists from the financial and artistic constraints imposed by traditional institutional and commercial channels.” We are constantly concentrated on finding new and interesting local artists and creative professionals and giving them opportunities to present their work and collaborate with other Chicago artists.
In the section following the categories, there are lists of recommendations each with a list of initiatives. We believe the following recommendations and initiatives will help Homeroom grow and achieve its mission of presenting and curating new creative works:
Recommendation 6. Address space needs for artists and creative professionals.
Every artist needs a space to work on their craft or live; the initiatives expand on the idea of making positive changes to obtain and maintain artists in the city. Some keys points for implementing this are:
• Updating and revise zoning, building code and license regulations to encourage artists to live, work, or create
• Use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds towards affordable housing/work spaces
• Long-term leases to encourage artists to remain in Chicago as they grow
• Creating affordable equipment rental services to transform spaces for performances
We strongly agree that zoning, building code and license regulations need to be updated and revised in order to remove many of the obstacles that make creating a workspace, gallery, or performance space such a challenge in Chicago. There are especially large challenges in creating spaces for people under drinking age to experience the arts.
TIF funds remain a controversial method for encouraging economic growth. The opaque process is vulnerable to corruption while risking depriving schools and other publicly funded operations of critical funds. But this suggestion does signify a commitment to towards affordable living and workspaces, which are critical in developing and sustaining artistic communities. The lack of affordable housing is a complex issue with no easy solution, and it is an important that it continues to be discussed when considering how to encourage new artists in Chicago.
Recommendation 8. Foster stronger networks through multimedia communication.
The internet has been a strong resource for artists around the world, and the initiatives for this recommendation suggest that the city should utilize multimedia to help facilitate communication and collaboration between artists and creative professionals. The initiatives described several ideas such as:
• A user-updated artist database to identify networks and collaboration opportunities
• A resource exchange website for artists to share services and equipment
• Staffed social media communications effort
• And a robust and ongoing collection of data on artists in Chicago
Artistic collaboration and conversation are constant ideals of Homeroom, and having artist resources easily accessible online could help Chicago’s culture thrive in
entirely new ways. In the case of Homeroom, an artist database for collaboration purposes could help us develop programming more effectively. We would more easily find new and talented artists while spreading word about our programming. However, these type of networks require a lot man-hours to create and maintain. It is not clear that a concerted public effort to create such a database and network would worth the use of public funds or even achieve better results than what is happening organically online.
Recommendation 9. Grow and diversify sources and methods of support.
Being an artist is expensive and often the return on investment is low, which prevents most creative people from growing and expand their practice. With that in mind, the city wants to help support artists in different ways such as:
• Tax incentives for creative industry start-ups and job creation activities
• Low cost health insurance programs for self-employed artists
• Grants and incentives to generate local creative productions
Growing and diversifying funding sources for the arts is certainly welcomed. This is a complex issue and to the commission’s credit, their suggestions indicate that a healthy arts scene requires funding from a variety of sources. Grants will always remain a small portion of creative funding, but used properly, grants can encourage growth and provide support to critical areas of Chicago’s artistic community. If grants and other incentives are used to nurture and strengthen deserving artists and organizations creating new work, Chicago’s cultural community will be stronger and more vibrant.
Low cost health insurance for self-employed artists is a bold idea with national political ramifications. But we have witnessed many artists and musicians financially crippled by an illness or injury. This idea addresses one of professional artist’s greatest concerns. Homeroom welcomes any effort increase access to health insurance to self-employed artists and every citizen of Chicago