Chicago Cultural Plan: moving forward

Chicago Cultural Plan, Town Hall Meeting at Cultural Center, 31 July 2012

Chicago Cultural Plan, Town Hall Meeting at Cultural Center, 31 July 2012 Photograph: Courtesy of the City of Chicago

The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) hosted the final of four town hall meetings last night to discuss the draft Chicago Cultural Plan. The capacity crowd of 350 took their seats under the Cultural Center’s Tiffany glass dome as a gospel-style singing group warmed up the audience. DCASE Commissioner Michelle Boone gave a brief welcome and introduction.

The meeting’s format followed that of the ones (hosted by Malcolm X College, South Shore Cultural Center and St. Augustine College) held earlier in July. In the first part, Joy Bailey of Lord Cultural Resources, the consulting firm developing the plan, walked the attendees through the draft’s ten priorities:

1. Attract and retain artists and creative professionals
2. Reinvigorate arts education for all Chicago and create opportunities for lifelong learning
3. Honor authentic Chicago culture in daily life
4. Facilitate neighborhood planning of cultural activity
5. Strengthen capacity of arts providers at critical stages of growth
6. Optimize city policies and regulation so creative initiatives thrive
7. Promote culture as a fundamental driver of prosperity to continually strengthen our quality of life
8. Make Chicago a global cultural destination
9. Place a priority on cultural innovation—what we do and how we do it
10. Integrate culture into civic life—across public, nonprofit and private sectors

The crowd was then asked about its level of support for the ten priorities. A round of electronic voting followed using hand-held devices distributed to each attendee. Given the makeup of the attendees (mostly arts administrators and artists), the results were unsurprisingly in favor of each priority. It seems the voting was more an exercise in familiarizing the crowd with the plan’s content, rather than gauging actual interest or support.

The second part of the meeting contained the real substance. The audience divided into smaller groups where individuals discussed the priority items of their choice. Specific ideas, comments and concerns were generated within these discussion groups and recorded by facilitators.

Julie Burros, director of cultural planning at DCASE, says the next step is to synthesize the attendees’ input from all four town hall meetings. She and her team will be busy with this task for the next month or so. The information will help shape the final version of the plan.

DCASE will unveil the official Chicago Cultural Plan in early October to coincide with Chicago Ideas Week. Stay tuned for more details regarding the unveiling event.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)