Chicago Cultural Plan Town Hall

Feb 16, 2012 | Events

The City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events  officially  launched the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 initiative February 9th.  Four streams will inform the process: public engagement, research and data analysis, innovation, and buy-in (from organizations, residents, businesses, etc). Knowing that real public engagement and buy-in are they keys to this initiative’s success, I attended the first of four town hall meetings last night with hopes of seeing what (cultural) democracy looks like.

What I saw…

Was heartening. Inspiring even. I think the team (which consists of local and international arts leaders and consultants from Lord Cultural Resources) expected around 150 folks to show up. Twice as many did and the crowd was diverse, passionate and vocal. We broke into groups, shared what Chicago culture meant to us, our vision for 2030, and brainstormed around how we’ll get there. I admit that I usually engage in a little eye rollin’ at group activities. I tend not to brainstorm with strangers. But I loved my table. First of all, I got to sit next to the incomparable Lauren Deutsch—jazz champion, cultural hero—which is always a pleasure. But our group included practicing artists, administrators, students, and invested patrons whose ages ranged from about 24 to about 75. They were insightful, funny, and passionate. A round of beers is all that would have improved our conversation. While only a few spokespeople got to report (our table brilliant as it was, was not among them), universal arts education in public schools, neighborhood-based initiatives, and addressing the unequal distribution of resources across the city were favorite causes (with free “culture zone” parking a surprise dark horse).

What I know…

This plan is ours and it will only work if we all participate often and as passionately as those folks did last night. There will be 3 more town halls, 19 neighborhood cultural conversations, and 10 cultural sector focus groups. You can also participate online by using the Share Ideas form on plan’s website or by visiting the CCP team on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.


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