Chicago Cultural Plan 2.0

Chicago Cultural Plan 2012I’ve been toying with what to say about the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 Draft over the last couple of days. It’s beautifully laid out (think Annual Report) with gorgeous pictures from Chicago’s cultural landscape. The format lends cohesiveness to the data so that it’s easy to follow from start to conclusion. But that’s just it; there is no conclusion. I don’t know exactly what I expected but it wasn’t quite this. Then I read Chris Jones’ column in the Tribune (“Chicago Cultural Plan must lose loftiness, go for grit”, Tribune 7-21-12) and I thought, “that’s what I was thinking!” I concurred with his description of it as “if somebody brought it up and it sounded good, stick it in the plan” plan. The draft, which is 64 pages, explains why culture is important, describes the methodology used, then lays out the information gathered from constituents involved in the fact-gathering process. But by the end, you don’t feel like you’ve read a doable plan, but simply the mother-of-all wish lists. (Jones refers to a list for Santa Claus.) If you’re interested in reading it, here are some tips.

If you are short on time (or attention), start with page 10, The Fact Sheet.  It lays out the six major themes identified during the process. A description of each theme follows on page 24. Then ten major priorities are identified, which serve as the basis for viewing the recommendations. The priorities are (not in any particular order):

• Attract and retain artists and creative professionals.

• Reinvigorate arts education for all Chicago and create opportunities for lifelong learning.

• Honor authentic Chicago culture in daily life.

• Facilitate neighborhood planning of cultural activity.

• Strengthen capacity of arts providers at critical stages of growth.

• Optimize city policies and regulation so creative initiatives thrive.

• Promote culture as a fundamental driver of prosperity to continually strengthen our quality of life.

• Make Chicago a global cultural destination.

• Place a priority on cultural innovation – what we do and how we do it.

• Integrate culture into civic life – across public, nonprofit, and private sectors.

(City of Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 Draft)


These priorities are placed into four categories: (1) People, (2) Places, (3) Policies, and (4) Planning Culturally. Within these categories, 36 recommendations with associated initiatives are outlined. I didn’t count the initiatives, because I didn’t think it was worth it, but they are potential strategies to achieve each recommendation. If you attended any of the city-wide meetings, you might recognize a suggestion you made. I, for example, recognized one of the suggestions I made in my group which I’m sure was echoed by others:

Expansion of existing arts drop-in hours at community centers, libraries, parks, schools, recreation centers in collaboration with artists-in-residence, or organizations-in-residence

(City of Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 Draft)

For those of you familiar with the Blackstone Branch Library, think “Smart Museum@the Library”, and the weekly thematic arts-n-crafts programs that the librarians host.


The possibility that the city could leap forward in its support of the arts city-wide is exciting. And the fact that this planning process has been open to citizens and organizations across the city is promising. But there’s a lot more work to do. For the arts to become an integral part of city planning and budgeting, infusing the arts throughout every neighborhood and not just downtown, each of us must continue to make our voices heard. Town Hall meetings are scheduled at the following locations this week:

July 24: 6-8pm
@ Malcolm X College
1900 West Van Buren Street

July 25: 6-8pm
@ South Shore Cultural Center
7059 South Shore Drive

July 28: 10am-12pm
@ St. Augustine College-Essanay Studios
1345 West Argyle Street

July 31: 6-8pm
@ Chicago Cultural Center
78 East Washington Street


Visit the Cultural Plan website Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 – Upcoming Town Halls to RSVP and find more information. And weigh in with your alderman about what choices should be made. A final plan will be presented to the City Council for a vote in the Fall. Don’t miss this opportunity to shape Chicago culture in the next Cultural Plan for Chicago.


– B. Sawyer


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