For the first time in 25 years, the City of Chicago has released a draft of a cultural plan, the culmination of an almost six-month process of “creating the city’s cultural vision from the bottom up.” The plan, which comes from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, fulfills a campaign promise by Rahm Emanuel to update the goals of Chicago’s cultural program.
With more than 100 initiatives suggested throughout the document’s 64 pages, there is a lot to consider. The larger points include a focus on cross-neighborhood cultural events and a proposal to cultivate local talent through grants, fellowships, and even a “culture job corps” that would include mentorships and job entry programs for arts students to gain experience. The smaller points, though, are just as interesting. Here are just five points that stood out (if you’re interested in reading more about them, head to the plan website and look up the initiative under the listed recommendation number):
NEW SUBSCRIPTION TO SIGN UP FOR: Under a proposal to broaden participation in the arts among Chicago residents, the plan suggests a “citywide art subscription series: single pass for multiple events/performances.” The details are thin at this early stage (Which events would this entail? How much would this pass cost?), but already this sounds like an incredible gift for the culture-phile in your life. (Recommendation 11B)
2 NEW KINDS OF SPEED DATING: Specifically, “innovation speed dating,” working to develop emerging ideas and products across sectors, and “theater speed dating,” which will showcase productions to producers. The initiatives sound great; the use of the term speed dating, not so much. (31B, 32H)
3 NEW FESTIVALS: A colleague said yesterday, “There’s always a fest somewhere.” Expect that to be even truer in the future. The city hopes to add three more to the already packed lineup: one to take place at key locations along the Chicago River; a (very vague) “large-scale major cultural festival that attracts global attention”; and FutureFest, an international digital arts festival. (10G, 27A, and 30B)
4 THINGS YOU’LL BE SEEING AROUND TOWN: The plan isn’t just about new committees and grants for the arts—there will be some very noticeable additions to the city if the draft is enacted as is. Some of the things you may want to get used to:
+ Art walls, or dedicated sites like bridges or building walls to be art spaces (13J)
+ Culture kiosks, installed at transportation hubs for newcomers to the neighborhood (12B)
+ New exhibition spaces at nonprofit facilities, like hospitals (36D)
+ Art trucks to sell art on the go (13G)
5 WAYS WE’RE PAYING FOR IT: It’s an ambitious plan, and the question of how to pay for more than 100 different initiatives is somewhat addressed. Recommendation 22, for example, lists five different revenue streams, including a “dedicated tax for arts and culture.” Look for this tax to be a major discussion point going forward.
The draft is still under review and will be finalized this fall. In the meantime, here’s one more number for you:
4 TOWN HALLS: As others have pointed out, the best part of the new plan is the participation aspect. The city is hosting four town halls over the next few weeks to talk about the plan before it’s formally adopted. RSVP to any of these events here.
For those interested, the original Chicago Cultural Plan, developed under Mayor Harold Washington in 1986 and released to the public in March of 1987, is available here.
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