Revitalizing our city’s arts and culture scene is essential to our post-pandemic recovery

Before the pandemic, Chicago’s arts sector was a $3.2 billion industry, representing over 85,000 jobs. Chicago’s arts landscape has been devastated by the pandemic, but the resilience of our talented artists and venues as Chicago’s cultural scene continues to safely reopen gives us renewed hope for better times ahead. Revitalizing our city’s arts and culture scene is essential to our post-pandemic recovery, and the arts must be at the center of bringing Chicago back, in all 77 neighborhoods.

According to a recent report by Arts Alliance Illinois on the impact of COVID-19 on our creative sector, the for-profit and nonprofit arts and culture industry lost an estimated $150 billion in sales of goods and services and nearly a third of its jobs (2.7 million) between April and July last year. Ninety-five percent of creative workers reported a loss of income, 55% reported having no savings to fall back on, 32% had faced eviction and 52% experienced food scarcity.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot recognizes the important role artists and cultural organizations play in Chicago’s economic recovery and bolstering the quality of life in our city. A tireless advocate and supporter of the local creative community, she truly is our #ArtsMayor. Her leadership is evidenced in the passage of the 2022 Recovery Budget, where the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, or DCASE, will see an increase of $26 million in new arts and culture investments to support artists and creative industries.

This investment will transform DCASE’s cultural grants budget and increase direct support for the arts sector from $2.7 million to $20.7 million over the next two years. Our increased grants budget follows the announcement of "Arts77," a recovery plan that leverages over $60 million in initial funding to support local artists and creative industries. Combined with other programs, this year alone, the city provided nearly $100 million in funds to support the arts landscape—all told making Chicago one of the top major U.S. cities in government support for arts recovery and artist relief.

Going forward, we’ll continue to make certain these resources are distributed equitably across the city. To that aim, we’ve centered racial equity in our grant-making. Sixty percent of Individual Artists Program grantees are Black, Indigenous and people of color, as compared with 38% in 2016, and grants were awarded to artists and organizations in all 50 wards in 2021, as compared with 35 in 2016.

Additionally, we’ve increased our investment in public art as we employ artists and creative workers throughout Chicago. This year, we dedicated $20 million to public art through new investments like the Capital Plan, O’Hare Terminal 5 expansion and the Chicago Monuments Project. To strengthen our local TV & film industry—one of the largest and most diverse in the U.S.—our Chicago Film Office led the city’s efforts to bring a record 15 productions to Chicago this fall, at an estimated economic value of $750 million this year alone. Of course, we’ll also continue to book Chicago-based musicians and artists for the many special events and exhibitions we present at Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, as well as facilitate hundreds of neighborhood festivals, markets and more.

Collaboration will continue to expand, including our partnership with the Department of Planning & Development to embed artists in the mayor’s Invest South/West initiative and the We Will Chicago citywide plan, building on our initial two-year investment of $5 million to support cultural and community development. And, in partnership with our Cultural Advisory Council, we will advance a new direction for Chicago’s cultural policy in which the arts are embedded in initiatives and strategies across city government—including CPS, CTA, libraries and parks, just to name a few.

The pandemic upended the arts sector, but investing in Chicago’s creative economy will pay dividends for years to come.

Erin Harkey will be the next commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, subject to City Council approval. She was nominated to the post this month by Mayor Lori Lightfoot following the retirement of Mark Kelly after five years of public service.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

November 22, 2021 at 05:20PM

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