Project Stream: Cultural Ecologies

In 2012, Chicago conducted a Cultural Plan. As the process was taking shape, Barbara Koenen, who organized the Chicago Creative Expo, and Julie Burros, director of Cultural Planning for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, invited me and six graduate students from the Department of Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to conduct a workshop, interacting with attendees to elicit their understanding of what it is a Cultural Plan can accomplish. We were located at the 'Cultural Plan Headquarters' at the Chicago Creative Expo 2012, in April 2012. 

In 2013 and 2014, I was commissioned to conduct 3 Arts Ecology projects, to draw  snapshots of cultural activities and perceptions in specific areas, by talking with local stakeholders and cultural producers. These projects were carried out with students of the Arts Administration and Policy Program at SAIC, a department I currently chair. I believe that the recently conducted Chicago Cultural Plan opened a door, locally, for organizations to consider more formal inclusion of art inflected perspectives in community and urban planning processes. I also believe that as an artist with a cultural policy skill set, I ask, observe, listen and hear differently from typically sociology-inflected researchers. The projects are located in or near Chicago: in Evanston, and in Chicago south and west side neighborhoods. The project in Evanston (2013) culminated in an exhibition. The Chicago based projects (2013/14) culminated in feedback sessions with funders and stakeholders, using posters and recommendations we drafted.

Also included here is a commission from the 3Arts Foundation in Chicago to gauge artists's perceptions of granting frameworks. It was also presented at the 2013 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference. A custom print of the diagram on a whiteboard is now part of the 3Arts collection.


Project: Cultural Plan workshop (2012)

Project: Evanston Art Center (2013)

Project: 3Arts (2013)

Project: Homan Square (2013)

Project: South East Chicago Commission  (2013/14)

Revisiting Homan Square (2018)

In the summer of 2018, I had the opportuniity to return to the 2013 project, designing a Neighborhood Tour map of North Lawndale, with intern, Dolores Ochoa, as part of a residency at Homan Square. We toured the neighborhood with Blanche Suggs, of the North Lawndale Historical and Cultural Society, who had already expressed a desire for such a map during our first meetings in 2013. We also designed the initial NHLCS website.

Urban Ecology

Early in 2008, the City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology invited me spend a year as an embedded artist, with full access to proceedings, meetings and materials. Initially envisioned as a complement to DoIT's 'Digital Access Action Agenda' initiative, for which I designed a logo and visual summary, the remit soon became much larger, and extended into a second year, to accompany the development of a "SmartChicago Recovery Proposal", the application for large scale stimulus funding to the Obama administration following the 2008 crash that was hammered out in meetings between city agencies, including housing and transportation, university partners, particularly in health care, and vetted in numerous public meetings with community partners. In addition to summarizing outcomes in a poster, I designed data dashboards for meetings with the Chicago Recovery Partnership, a body created by the philanthropic community, and drafting dozens of scorecards for the city stimulus dashboard. This work was credited not with my name, but  as SAIC, as institutional service to the community.