Enrich Chicago, along with other Chicago Arts Organizations, are asking Mayor Lightfoot to protect funding and increase the City’s investment in the arts in historically underfunded communities of color. Enrich Chicago is a collaborative of over 40 Chicagoland arts and philanthropic organizations committed to ending racism and systematic oppression in the arts. As COVID-19 disproportionately impacts communities of color, Enrich Chicago works to ensure art organizations survive this challenging time, and thrive beyond the pandemic.
According to Enrich Chicago, communities of color receive 50 cents to every dollar white organizations receive through private philanthropic institutions. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) also remains severely underfunded. Enrich Chicago believes that further cuts to the arts would be detrimental to these arts organizations whose programming, particularly in this pandemic, which have been virtual and free of charge.
Nina D. Sanchez, Director of Enrich Chicago, says, “There are structural issues that put us here. What are the changeable structures? We have to look at what an equitable funding landscape looks like with foundation partners and private philanthropy. We are one of the few cities of this size that doesn’t have a designated line item for the arts in this country.” Funding for the arts is entirely reliant on tax revenue that is shared with “leisure,” which includes travel and hospitality. “I’d like to see funding for the arts move beyond one revenue stream, Sanchez says. Funds need to be allocated and given to these arts organizations who have stepped up in many ways during this pandemic, from continuing to provide free virtual programming or those who have used their facilities as food pantries, drop-off centers, etc. We have to bring greater infrastructure to these organizations who have pivoted with this pandemic to meet their communities’ needs.
Arts organizations have provided dance, music, theatre, and visual art experiences to residents throughout the pandemic. “Art is Essential,” says Vershawn Ward, Artistic Director and CEO of Red Clay Dance Company. “If we are talking about humanity and the lived experience as we walk through the world, we cannot have that without art.” With a pandemic and social unrest, the conversations surrounding healing and understanding are at the forefront of individuals every day. Art has always been a bridge to promote awareness, healing, and education on many of the issues that are in the headlines today.
“These experiences are part of our humanity. My concern is that we don’t lose the value of understanding the need for art in our human experience. We have to value it like anything else; sports or STEM. Our artistic experience is part of our lived experience.”-Vershawn Ward-Red Clay Dance Company.
For more information on Enrich Chicago, please visit their website at www.enrichchi.org. Red Clay Dance Company is an Afro-contemporary dance company that offers dance education programming on the south side of Chicago. Learn more about them at www.redclaydance.com.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.