Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=200930
Story Retrieval Date: 5/26/2013 12:59:43 AM CST
Orit Sarfaty, senior consultant for Lord Cultural Resources, explains the purpose of the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan to residents at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen.
2012 Chicago Cultural Plan calls for ideas, solutions to improve Chicago culture
Frank Lloyd Wright once said Chicago would eventually be the “most beautiful great city left in the world.” With the launch of the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan, that vision has legs.
The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events held its fourth and final town hall meeting Tuesday to get input from residents about the 2012 plan and the future of arts and culture in Chicago.
More than 100 artists, performers and invested community members gathered at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen to offer ideas and solutions to improve Chicago culture.
“We want artists to make a living by 2030,” said one woman, followed by applause from the crowd.
Community members had many other ideas for improving arts and culture in Chicago, ranging from hiring more city muralists to integrating Chicago’s historically segregated neighborhoods.
“There aren’t a lot of integrated cultural experiences in Chicago right now,” said one woman, noting that festivals aimed at bringing Chicago neighborhoods together could increase community connectivity.
“Keep the talent we’ve got in this town,” a man said about giving local college graduates a platform to perform and create their work in the city.
“There should be free arts education throughout Chicago,” he continued. “Including older adults as participants.”
“Re-establish Chicago as a major art market,” said another woman. “Organize, integrate and unify different art projects that are going on around the city.”
“No idea is too small or too big,” said Michelle Boone, commissioner of the Cultural Affairs and Special Events Department. “We hope this new cultural plan will serve as a road map to position our city as a global destination, as the very best in creativity, innovation and excellence in the arts.”
The last Chicago cultural plan was developed in 1986 under Mayor Harold Washington, but the department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel thought it was time to re-evaluate Chicago culture, something the mayor mentioned in his transitional plan last year.
The 1986 plan fueled the redevelopment of Navy Pier and the creation of Lookingglass Theatre and the Chicago Cultural Center.
“It’s time for an update,” Boone said. “We want to incorporate fresh approaches … and identify what are the opportunities for us in the future.”
The next phase of the process will be “neighborhood cultural conversations” that begin Feb. 29 and take place in 19 communities throughout Chicago. These meetings will focus on cultural needs of specific neighborhoods and will be offered in a more intimate setting.
The city has hired New York-based consulting firm Lord Cultural Resources to help spearhead the 2012 cultural plan. Lord has worked on more than 1,900 cultural projects all over the world and senior consultant Orit Sarfaty said that level of experience will benefit Chicago.
“We offer global expertise,” Sarfaty said. “But that’s only part of what makes an excellent cultural plan. The other part is real intimate knowledge of what the city of Chicago is and what its needs are.”
Sarfaty said the plan will be finalized in September, with a draft plan available by late spring or early summer.
“The document is going to be very thin and quite beautiful,” Sarfaty said. “It’s going to give a blueprint … for what Chicago wants to be tomorrow, and in 10 years, and in 20 years.”
Nick Rabkin is on Lord’s nine-person Chicago cultural resource team. He was deputy commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs in 1986 and was on the plan committee. Rabkin saw the effects of the plan then and understands how important creating a new plan is to the future of Chicago culture.
“The most important part of the ’86 plan … was the planning process itself,” Rabkin said. “It was a way to demonstrate that arts and culture meant a lot to thousands of people in Chicago.
“A lot of stuff that was in the ’86 plan has happened,” he said. “Did it happen only because of the plan? Absolutely not. The ideas became more current and gathered more momentum because of the plan. But the plan was one of many building blocks.”
The 2012 plan will likely serve a similar purpose. It won’t have enforcement power in and of itself, but will serve as a guide for lawmakers to improve art and culture in Chicago.
“We are going to have initiatives that we are going to be able to identify,” Sarfaty said.. “These will be real recommendations that will happen, with the implementation, task forces and resources to make it happen.”