MPC Research Assistant John O'Neill contributed to this post.
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is excited to be part of the unveiling of the draft Chicago Cultural Plan 2012, which offers a wide range of valuable proposals to promote cultural and community development across the city. The plan maintains a strong commitment to honoring a rich and vibrant Chicago culture that focuses on sharing neighborhood experiences; broadening cultural participation citywide; and integrating art in public places. Also near and dear to MPC, the 2012 plan facilitates neighborhood planning of cultural activity, optimizes city policies and regulation so creative initiatives can thrive, and integrates culture into civic life.
As a strong champion of Placemaking—involving residents in taking ownership of our public places—MPC is excited about the variety of ways the draft Cultural Plan can help advance Placemaking principles citywide. The plan prioritizes better connecting artists and cultural institutions to community efforts, by rethinking the use of vacant lots and spaces as opportunities to celebrate culture (a la our Space in Between contest) and by integrating cultural planning and Placemaking across city departments. A city government that plans culturally will facilitate new funding mechanisms for culture and streamline city processes. Additionally, the Mayor’s Cultural Plan Commission will launch a multi-sector effort to implement the Plan’s initiatives.
Cultural development holds the possibility of generating economic vitality through the development of tourism, art, and cultural attractions. MPC believes that creating vibrant public spaces through the creation of art can result in an improved quality of life, a positive community image, community redevelopment, and strong civic engagement and interactions. Investing in cultural development is a wise and effective use of funds to promote economic growth citywide.
MPC is supportive of many recommendations in the plan, particularly those that couple approaches to effective neighborhood planning with sustained cultural efforts and the development of cultural districts. Strategies such as pushing out well-established Chicago festivals and tourism opportunities into the neighborhoods—for instance, the Chicago Gospel Festival was hosted in Bronzeville this summer—will have a profound and positive impact on communties.
However, the plan comes with a multitude of precise recommendations that must be better prioritized in partnership with Chicago residents and stakeholders; otherwise, it appears to be a very long and costly list without a clear path to implementation. Despite this, the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 stands as a promising vision for the future of the city and its continued cultural development. Thoughtful and targeted implementation will be of great benefit to the ultimate goal of building a more vibrant and unified Chicago.