In 2012, Chicago residents were asked to participate in the process of planning the city’s cultural future. The city has long been home to world-class cultural venues, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as localized neighborhood cultural events and festivals. With the intention of expanding the tremendous cultural capital Chicago has, in October 2012 the city published an updated Cultural Plan, conducting research and analysis, engaging the public, and setting a new vision for the city’s cultural future.
Cultural amenities can be difficult to quantify, but the plan estimates some 53,603 jobs and 4.31 percent of businesses are arts related. The plan establishes some “broad civic objectives,” or areas of significant cultural impact, including: economic development, strong neighborhoods, innovation, environmental sustainability, public health, lifelong learning, public safety, and quality of life. Urban planning concepts from the broken windows theory, or Jane Jacobs’s concept of “eyes on the street,” to Richard Florida’s more recent canonization of the “creative class” are present here, but what impact does this plan have on physical land use? Will these civic initiatives manifest themselves in changes to the built environment?
Among the thirty-six recommendations in the plan are revisions to zoning that would make live/work spaces and other incubators of culture more feasible, as well as new long-term lease structures to allow artists to remain in place as neighborhoods around them grow and gentrify. Additionally, the plan recommends new “You Are Here” type kiosks to raise awareness of local cultural amenities. The identification of walls, bridges, or transit infrastructures that could support changing exhibitions or permanent installations could make otherwise unadorned infrastructures into artistic venues. Two interesting recommendations feature the creation of Cultural Space Brokerages and Creative Enterprise Zones, intended respectively to broker contracts between property owners and artists, and to incentivize creative uses for space.
While there’s no denying the importance of cultural amenities in marketing a city to visitors and new residents alike, the full impact of the Chicago Cultural Plan of 2012 remains to be seen.
What initiatives does your city have to facilitate cultural expression?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.