The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) supports artists and cultural organizations, invests in the creative economy, and expands access and participation in the arts throughout Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. As a collaborative cultural presenter, arts funder, and advocate for creative workers, our programs and events serve Chicagoans and visitors of all ages and backgrounds, downtown and in diverse communities across our city — to strengthen and celebrate Chicago.
DCASE is proud to support creatives and expand access to the arts throughout Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.
In 2022, DCASE saw a transformational influx of resources to help support Chicago’s creative economy. With these additional funds, and the restoration of our budget to 90% of pre-pandemic levels, DCASE was able to address the needs of the cultural community and support its ongoing recovery. Overall, DCASE granted more than 630 grants across seven programs, a 25% increase in the total number of grants awarded in 2021.
We also began the hard and necessary work of evaluating DCASE programs and operations to create a more efficient, effective, and equitable agency. We embarked on a new direction for cultural policy in Chicago, bridging partnerships with fellow City agencies to embed the arts in key initiatives across the city. We expanded support for artists, creative workers and businesses, and significantly improved arts equity citywide through our grants, public art, and other cultural programs.
In collaboration with the Department of Planning and Development and Chicago Department of Transportation, we’ve committed over $6 million for public art in all INVEST South/West neighborhoods. We commissioned a mural and supported an Artist-in-Residence program with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. We also created an Artist-in-Residence program at Legler Library with the Chicago Public Library and supported the Chicago Park District to increase cultural offerings in neighborhood locations. Last, but not least, DCASE and Mayor Lightfoot worked with the Department of Assets, Information, and Services and many others to rename Chicago’s oldest house in honor of the contributions of Bishop Louis Henry and Margaret Ford — now the Clarke-Ford House.
We are immensely proud of these shared accomplishments, and more essential work lies ahead. In 2023, DCASE will continue to position Chicago’s cultural vitality as a driving and defining part of our city. Priorities include:
On behalf of our Leadership & Staff, thank you for your advocacy, partnership, and participation.
Lori E. LightfootMayorCity of Chicago
Erin HarkeyCommissionerDepartment of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
*Estimated in 2019; expected to return to these pre-pandemic levels in 2023
Our public art program continued to see record growth this year. We’ve committed over $6 million for public art in all INVEST South/West neighborhoods. In partnership with the Department of Aviation, DCASE will deliver $3.5 million for public art projects at O’Hare International Airport. There were also a record number of aldermanic menu-supported public art projects in 2022. We have worked collaboratively with aldermanic offices to facilitate public art installations that will enhance the exterior of libraries, schools, parks, community spaces, and other neighborhood assets. And the Chicago Monuments Project final report was released, announcing grants to support the creation of new works that celebrate our city’s diverse history.
Mayor Lightfoot’s signature community development initiative to reverse decades of disinvestment on Chicago’s South and West Sides, INVEST South/West (ISW) celebrated its 3-year anniversary in 2022. DCASE mounted arts projects with Artists-In-Residence in three of the ISW neighborhoods: Dorian Sylvain (Auburn Gresham), Eric Hotchkiss (Englewood) and Fernando Ramirez in partnership with Project Onward (New City/Back of the Yards). DCASE collaborated with the Department of Planning and Development and the Mayor’s Office to commission artwork on construction fencing surrounding shovel-ready projects in ISW community areas. In Phase 1 of the project, DCASE collaborated with Rahmaan Statik in Auburn Gresham, Isiah “Thoughtpoet" Veney in Englewood, and Keith Brownlee and Dwight White in Austin.
In 2022, DCASE worked with the Department of Planning and Development as well as Englewood Arts Collective, Floating Museum, and VS Creative Consulting to launch P.A.R.T.Y. (Public Art Reimagining Tour with You) — an initiative to develop a Public Art Vision Plan for each INVEST South/West neighborhood. Each plan will outline public art themes, types, and locations unique to each neighborhood, contributing to its revitalization. Throughout the summer and fall, artist teams collected community input via surveys and in-person pop-ups in Auburn-Gresham, Austin, Bronzeville, and Englewood.
Film production revenue hit a record high of $630 million in 2021, shattering pre-pandemic levels by $70 million. This signals a strong recovery and positive economic impact for communities — including projects such as the Regal Mile Studios, a state-of-the-art media campus in the South Shore neighborhood. Revenue is projected to exceed $700 million in 2022, with 48 wards hosting film productions and 1,562 permits issued. Beyond permitting, and as part of Chicago’s COVID-19 Task Force report, the Film Office spearheaded “Chicago Made," a new workforce development program that seeks to reimagine the region’s workforce infrastructure and create a plan to invest in displaced young workers; its first cohort included 25 participants, across 12 career pathways.
In 2021/2022, DCASE launched an ongoing public awareness campaign using the “Chicago Made" brand to highlight the vital role Chicago’s TV and film industry plays in the city. The campaign showcases the industry’s enormous economic impact, introduces local film workers as neighbors and friends, and highlights the diversity of “reel" jobs available across our city.
DCASE is grateful for the steadfast support of our partners. Our work in the areas of Cultural Grants, Public Art, TV & Film, and Festivals & Events is made possible by corporate sponsorships as well as corporate, foundation, and government grants. In 2022, we reopened the meticulously restored Grand Army of the Republic rooms at the Chicago Cultural Center, made possible by a generous anonymous gift of $15 million. (The yearlong restoration has since been lauded by numerous historic preservation groups.) All told, DCASE raised a total of more than $3.7 million in 2022, including City matching funds.
Appointed by Mayor Lightfoot, our 30-member advisory board met quarterly, and both advised and supported Commissioner Harkey and the senior team in their efforts to support creatives and drive meaningful impact. Cultural Advisory Council members were embedded in specific projects — including the development of a new DCASE mission statement, the launch of a new recovery grant program (Together We Heal Creative Place Program), and recommendations for the We Will Chicago arts and culture pillar. And members played a critically important role as ambassadors to raise awareness of the DCASE resources and opportunities available to the arts and culture community. We are grateful to this dedicated group of arts leaders for their invaluable guidance and advocacy.
This hard-working and talented team of 66 creative workers strive to fulfill the mission and charge of DCASE on a daily basis. In 2022, special staff-led projects included setting and advancing racial equity priorities for the Department, crafting a new Mission statement, and convening the Performing Arts industry.