On March 12, approximately 80 members of the theatre community gathered to discuss our recommendations for the Cultural Plan. Small and large theatres, downtown and neighborhood theatres, comedy theatres, presenting theatres, educational institutions and other members of our community were represented.
Two main themes emerged as to how the City could best support our efforts.
Recognize the value of theatre in Chicago, as contributors to the fabric of what makes Chicago great, as employers, as economic generators, as attractors of tourism and corporations. Recognize the value through real investment in our businesses and in our artists.
Communicate the value of theatre in Chicago by connecting theatres with schools, corporations, citizens and tourists. Include and highlight theatre in tourism and other marketing campaigns.
The following are specific recommendations we would make to the plan:
I. Brand Chicago as a cultural hub and a theatre city. Arts should be valued as highly as sports and restaurants.
II. Increase investment in grant making.
III. There are currently abandoned, empty and under-utilized spaces city-wide. Spaces should be re-purposed for use as performance, rehearsal and office spaces. The City should act as a connector, working with landlords, developers and other city departments to identify spaces and with arts groups to identify needs.
IV. Acknowledge that arts education is vital to the continued community health and vibrancy of Chicago. Connect artists and theatres to schools. Make it easy for theatres to deliver valuable programming to Chicago Public Schools.
V. Modernize City processes and procedures. Provide information to arts groups in a transparent and consistent manner. Streamline processes and make it easy to do business in Chicago. Current city practices (licensing, grant-making, arts partners in the parks, banners, fee waivers, etc.) are byzantine, inconsistent and outdated.
VI. Make connections between arts groups and corporations, citizens and other City departments, particularly for small and mid-sized theatres. Provide access to corporations by introducing them to arts groups and offering incentives for businesses and corporations that work with arts groups. Developing new relationships with corporations, citizens and other City departments provides theatres with important benefits, including new audiences, sponsorships, potential board members, access to information and more.
VII. Introduce citizens and tourists to the arts through the sponsorship of hubs, not necessarily designating hubs but working with existing hubs. Work with CTA to recognize the arts throughout the CTA system. Provide transportation such as trolleys to cultural venues throughout the city and kiosks at stations highlighting arts organizations in the area.
VIII. Replicate the DCA Storefront Theatre model throughout the City and create incubator spaces where companies can grow.
IX. Facilitate sharing and the exchange of information among arts organizations citywide.
X. Provide opportunities for artists including specific grants, teaching opportunities, free education and connect teaching artists to schools.