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Culture Fri Oct 19 2012

Some Quick Notes on the Chicago Cultural Plan

On Monday, the city released the final draft of the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012.

It's a long, often repetitive document, but here are some takeaways.

1. Aside from wording changes and a few added or removed initiatives, it's basically the same as the previous draft I wrote about back in July. The plan still calls for expanding the Chicago creative industries, increasing arts/cultural tourism, and using culture to improve the quality-of-life of everyday Chicagoans... with lots of buzzwords and little detail on how the plan's ideas will be executed.

2. By numbers, the plan boasts four categories (people, places, policies, and "planning culturally"), 10 broad priorities, 36 recommendations, and over 200 initiatives.

3. In general, the plan will make it a lot easier to launch and sustain a creative career in the city. Initiatives include zoning law changes, microfinancing, tax incentives for start-ups, insurance programs for self-employed artists and creative industry professionals, and networking and mentorship opportunities.

4. Fifty-nine percent of the plan's initiatives will be executed in the next 18 months.

5. Despite Rahm's pledge not to raise taxes, a recommendation to explore the "augmentation of an existing tax or fee" to help fund arts and culture is still in the plan.

6. The plan proposes using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds to subsidize housing and workspaces for artists. One example of recent TIF-subsidized artist housing is when the city spent $11 million to help renovate the former Morris B. Sachs building in Logan Square into the Hairpin Lofts. At the same time, the plan also calls for finding new sources for public school arts education funding in the corporate and nonprofit worlds. Ironically, TIF districts are designed to divert property tax revenue -- and thus, funding -- from things like public schools.

7. According to a four-way Venn diagram infographic in the Executive Summary (PDF), we apparently have six officially-designated cultural districts: the Cermak Creative Industry District, Arts Alive/45 (the Northwest Side 45th Ward), Bronzeville, Logan Square, Motor Row and Uptown.

Chicago Cultural Plan Venn diagram

8. Many of the goals -- from boosting cultural tourism to sparking community development through exposure to the arts -- are similar to those from the city's original Cultural Plan from 1986. Like the current version, the 1986 plan didn't offer detailed steps so much as a broader vision with a number of ideas. But as Chuck Sudo at Chicagoist pointed out, it's a lot easier to read.

9. This is all supposed to add up to turning Chicago into a cosmopolitan, globally-influential, and (presumably) wealthier city.

Overall, the Chicago Cultural Plan's impact on your daily life may vary over time. It could mean another street mural on your block, a new job opportunity, or a sudden influx of hundreds of aspiring artists in your neighborhood. Whether or not you bother to read it, some aspect of the plan's implementation will affect the city around you and the local arts and culture you enjoy.

So you might as well give it a look. After all, it's "your" plan.

City of Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 - Final

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Anonymous / November 1, 2012 1:36 AM

I'm hopping mad that the cultural plan doesn't even mention street artists, just "street performers", "street vendors", and "street art installations" No mention of the fact that artists are not allowed to sell on the street practically anywhere downtown. Changing that restriction would not cost the city a dime, while adding to the cultural "atmosphere" the city wants to promote.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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