Uniting America: Oh Chicago, Oh Chicago Your Residents are Speaking

February 27, 2012
Izabela Grobelna Uniting America AmeriCorps Fellow

In the span of  2 weeks in February, the Department on Cultural Affairs and Special Events or DCASE invited Chicagoans to show their pride in the art and cultural assets in their communities. Yet, the task of the new Chicago Cultural Plan aimed at capturing more than Chicagoans’ pride, but also their concerns, frustrations, and hopes for the future.


Building on the Mayor Washington’s 1986 Cultural Plan, DCASE hosted four Town Hall meetings in Columbia College, Senn High School in Edgewater, DuSable Museum in Washington Park, and National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen. Although the specific references to cultural assets are distinct, the overall consensus was on the need to return the arts into the school, develop neighborhood-level opportunities for the artists and patrons, as well as develop an innovative communication system for residents to learn about opportunities in their neighborhoods and citywide. 


What really was striking was the residents’ emphasis on local communities. As a person working with a diverse group of community-based organizations, it put a smile on my face. Residents feel strongly about investing in the arts and culture across all neighborhoods. One African-American woman represented her discussion group’s discontent by exclaiming: “Why not provide money for the Westside? Why not provide money to the Southside? Culture does not stop at Roosevelt Street! It continues all the way to 138th street!” 


The main concern I learned from attending all four Town Hall meetings was the DECENTRALIZATION, and yes, in all caps. It has been too long and too many missed opportunities for the City to continue neglecting neighborhoods. 


Community conversations are scheduled in various neighborhoods. I hope that this Chicagoan echo will be heard and the story from the past will not repeat:


Oh Chicago, Chicago

Your residents are speaking

Some decades later…

Chicago finally began to listen