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Chicago SummerDance

Chicago SummerDance in Grant Park is among the many events coordinated by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Clinée Hedspeth appointed new commissioner for city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

Mayor Brandon Johnson announced Monday the appointment of Clinée Hedspeth as the new commissioner of the the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE).

Hedspeth previously served as legislative director under Johnson during his time as Cook County Commissioner. She has also worked as director of curatorial services at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, and more recently as associate specialist of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips Auctioneers, where she identified and evaluated art.

The announcement comes one month after Johnson announced the termination of the previous DCASE commissioner, Erin Harkey, although she remained on the job until last Friday. News of Harkey’s departure came just weeks before the city’s festival season gets underway, and was a surprise to some in the arts community.

DCASE oversees events including Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Air and Water show and Chicago Blues Festival. It also funds a number of arts organizations as well as artists through Individual Artists Program grants, an effort that Harkey, who was appointed by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, expanded.

Hedspeth would “continue to develop and implement programs that support the arts, nurture cultural understanding and boost economic growth in the city,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

“Clinée’s exceptional track record in both the arts and policy-making uniquely qualifies her to lead DCASE,” Johnson said in the statement announcing Hedspeth’s appointment. “Her visionary leadership and commitment to community engagement will ensure that Chicago remains at the forefront of cultural innovation and inclusivity.”

Hedspeth holds a bachelor of arts in Philosophy and African-American Studies from Dominican University, and serves as president of the boards of the Hyde Park Historical Society and the Edgar Miller Legacy, according to Monday’s announcement.

“Together with the DCASE staff and arts community, we will expand access to the arts, celebrate our city’s diverse heritage, and create new opportunities for cultural expression in every community,” Hedspeth said in the statement.

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