"Community conversations" to impact City cultural plan

November 23, 2011

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will conduct “many community conversations” in early 2012 as the department begins the process of crafting a long-term, comprehensive cultural plan for the City of Chicago.

So writes DCASE Commissioner Michelle T. Boone in a personal reply to my blog post last week about the Department’s CityArts (sic) program. She points out that CityArts itself is a continuing legacy of the first (and only, so far) cultural plan drafted by the City back when Cultural Affairs was a brand-new department under Mayor Harold Washington. The new cultural plan, which DCASE expects to unveil by May, fulfills a campaign pledge of arts-savvy Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Commissioner Boone goes on to say that when she accepted her DCASE appointment, CityArts “was one of the programs that most excited me,” calling it a program of “vital importance to the arts and culture community in Chicago.”

Ms. Boone speaks directly to my suggestion that CityArts might be funded through a public/private partnership which could increase the dollars allotted to it. “It is a program we can grow and you’re right to consider leveraging the City’s current investment,” she writes me. “We need to make the biggest impact we can with the dollars we have available and we plan to research ways to expand the funding pool as widely as possible.”

She continues, “So, is a public-private partnership the most appropriate vehicle for leveraging the CityArts program? At this point, I don’t know the answer to that question. We’re trying to find a balance between the many fiscal benefits of partnerships, which you outlined in your (blog), and the benefits afforded to an entirely independent City program, some of which have helped CityArts become the truly unique and amazing program it is today.”

She concludes. “I anticipate that additional ideas for the grants program will emerge from the many community conversations we plan to hold” and that “there is a bright future ahead for the department’s granting efforts and for our overall support of arts and culture in Chicago.”

Naturally, you can count on Onstage/Backstage to post information on the upcoming community conversations as the schedule becomes available, and to continue tracking the activities and progress of what appears to be a reinvigorated DCASE under Commissioner Boone.