Importance of arts and culture

Mayoral candidates talk about why the arts are important to Chicago.

How do you define the importance of arts and culture to the city of Chicago? And what do you see as the city’s role in funding the arts and fostering growth in the cultural economy?

1 Carol Moseley Braun, 63
Former U.S. Senator; founder and president, Good Food Organics
Lives in Hyde Park

“The citizens of Chicago deserve a quality of life that includes the nurturing and expressive aspects of the arts. The arts humanize community, and give us inspiration and opportunities to connect as people. The arts also hold great financial and economic benefit for Chicago, as a magnet for tourism and industry for our citizens. It behooves the city administration to create a supportive atmosphere for the arts, and to support cultural entrepreneurship, and artists’ ability to earn a decent living. In so doing, the city administration can not only enhance the life experiences available in Chicago, but also tap the revenue streams created by the arts and cultural economic impact.”

2 Cynthia Plaster Caster, 63
Lives in Lincoln Park

“Arts and culture is very important to the city of Chicago. It is the face and fiber of our city. I believe the city’s role is to foster growth through the support of events. As much as I love the culture and support of the arts, I don’t believe that they should come before the health and well-being of the people of Chicago.”

3 Gery Chico, 54
Former chairman, City Colleges of Chicago; attorney, Chico & Nunes, P.C.
Lives in South Loop

“Art and culture are essential to the fabric, character and economy of the city. Chicago has earned an international reputation in the arts which bolsters the viability of the city by attracting visitors and tourists from around the world. Without question, the arts are critical to Chicago’s overall health, future and quality of life. The city’s promotion of its early developmental programs, for example, have resulted in successful, safe platforms for our youth to express themselves, which in turn, perpetuate and build upon the involvement of the arts in the development of the city’s future.”

4 Annazette Collins, 48
State Representative (D), 10th District
Lives on West Side

“I think it’s great. I love the fact that we have so many Broadway plays coming in.… The Theater District, I love that. And it’s coming to the neighborhoods, too. I think it’s our role and I think we should keep it in the schools as well. We’ve taken a lot of arts and culture out of the schools. These kids have a lot of talent and not all of them want to be athletes. So if we keep it in the schools and keep it in the city, that’s great. That way everyone has a chance to get involved.”

5 Christopher Cooper, “fortysomething”
Civil-rights attorney
Lives in River North

“Art is important in every society. It tells the tales of that society’s development, both trials and tribulations. Culturally speaking, the arts allow for the expression of creative exercise and teach tolerance for diversity. The city must play a role in funding the arts. This task should not be left to private industry.”

6 Miguel del Valle, 58
Chicago City Clerk
Lives on Near Northwest Side

“A vibrant arts and cultural scene is key to Chicago’s economy and its place as an exciting global city. This atmosphere encourages tourism, employment and entrepreneurship, and attracts the professional workforce necessary to our vibrant economy. While downtown arts and cultural offerings are crucial, neighborhood and ethnic festivals of art, music and theater are also important, and greatly contribute to our diverse city. These venues help define a sense of pride and place in our “city of neighborhoods,” and preserve the cultural legacy of the many immigrants that have comprised the rich fabric of Chicago. The city should use its investment in the arts in a balanced way, drawing people both downtown and to our neighborhoods, promoting access to the arts for all Chicagoans. The city should also take an active role in encouraging corporate and philanthropic investments into the arts.”

7 Rahm Emanuel, 50
Former White House Chief of Staff
Lives in Ravenswood Manor

“I’ve seen the arts community help to attract a major corporation—Boeing—and its opera-loving CEO to Chicago. And I’ve seen a neighborhood transformed by the Old Town School of Folk Music on Lincoln Avenue. Chicago is a world-class city. A vibrant arts and culture scene defines a world-class city. The arts help to define who we are, and they make our city an exciting place to work and live while attracting business and tourism. I believe the city government can and must play a role that allows our arts and culture to flourish—even as I believe we must be honest about the challenges that will be presented by the budget deficit facing the city and the taxpayers.”

8 Rickey Hendon, 55
State Senator (D), 5th District
Lives on West Side

“I think it’s extremely important. It’s essential to the viability of the city¬—it’s the spice of life. Without it, life would be boring and a little drab. It brings tourists into the city and it makes it a more pleasant city in which to live. I think the city could do a much better job of funding the arts. I believe if we do more, like we will when I become mayor, we can use resources to help the economy because when you draw people into the theater, producers can get compensated, the actors can get paid.… The Theater District can be vital to the restaurants and other businesses in that area.”

9 Rev. James T. Meeks, 54
State Senator (D), 15th District
Lives in Roseland

“The arts and culture are essential to the general welfare of our citizens and a financial engine that helps tourism, the hospitality industry, thousands of local performers, and men and women in the crafts and trades. …In my opinion, Chicago is the nation’s center for cutting-edge theater with more than 100 active companies. I’d like to see our local television and film production business grow. The experience of national producers with our local professionals has been outstanding.”

10 R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr, 66
Editor-in-chief, The American Spectator
Lives in Streeterville

“The city’s role is the role of every good citizen, support the arts and enjoy them, but not in this tough economy. No budgetary increase.”

11 William “Dock” Walls, 53
Owner, American Shirtshak; director, Committee for a Better Chicago
Lives in Galewood

“Arts and culture are essential and very important to our city and society in general. The presence of these intangible assets give us reason to pause and reflect on the capacity of mankind. Even in times of war, when man’s inhumanity toward man was most pronounced, opposing forces have exhibited civility through joint efforts to preserve artistic pieces and cultural artifacts. The fostering of arts and culture begins with a commitment to fund Chicago Public Schools programs that ensure our children will continually be exposed to music, theater, drama and other art forms. Additionally, the city has to provide funding for art projects and programs that produce artists who have the potential to create works which have increasing monetary value.”

12 Fredrick K. White, 55
Truck driver, Department of Streets and Sanitation, Bureau of Forestry
Lives in Humboldt Park

“I think that the arts and culture programs are very important to the city of Chicago, however, I do not think they should be funded by the taxpayers. I feel that the taxes collected from the taxpayers should go to fund city services first. If the taxpayers want to fund other projects, I feel that a check-off box should be added to their tax bill with a list of projects that can be funded.”