Enrich Chicago launched a new initiative to create a shared vision for the anti-racist art and culture sector. Imagine Just seeks to tap into the city’s diverse arts and culture community to create anti-racist and anti-oppressive arts and culture sectors that center around the voices of artists of color. This shared vision will identify actionable strategies for systemic changes.
“Chicago’s arts and culture sector is many things, but it is not just,” said Nina Sánchez, Co-Director of Enrich Chicago. “There is growing awareness of the ways that the arts and culture sector is upholding white supremacy and other systems of oppression. We are called to not only understand the root causes of these inequities and their presence in our institutions but also to dismantle them. Through this new initiative, we aim to create the sector anew and articulate a vision for a liberated, anti-racist arts and culture sector.”According to Enrich Chicago’s 2020 report, A Portrait of Inequity: Measuring Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Chicago’s Arts and Culture Community, leadership in the arts community is overwhelming as white as well as 74% at arts and culture organizations.
Cate Fox, Senior Program Officer at the MacArthur Foundation says the COVID-19 pandemic further exposed inequities in the arts community. “The pandemic has further exposed the inequity in our city’s arts infrastructure and how it is perpetuating white supremacy,” said Cate Fox, Senior Program Officer at the MacArthur Foundation, which has provided seed funding for the project. “At the beginning of the pandemic, organizations and grantees were asking how they were going to survive. Much of the research and planning that took place for Chicago was focused on helping the arts to simply survive. Our challenge is to determine how we leapfrog the survival phase and build a future where the arts, especially ALAANA arts, can thrive.” Another key finding in the Enrich Chicago report says, ALAANA diverse arts and culture organizations are more reliant on foundation grants and receive less money, on average, than majority-white organizations. In addition, ALAANA-centric arts organizations receive 50 cents for every dollar that white arts organizations receive.
The Imagine Just partners include a group of ambassadors, artists, and advisors, as well as the core founding team members, who will all shape the process and the vision. They plan to leverage existing work at the intersection of anti-racism, the arts, and Chicago; center the voices of ALAANA and BIPOC artists and arts organizations; create an inclusive and accessible public engagement experience, and move from ideas to action through a community of practice that is empowered with funding and partnership to activate and hold the arts sector accountable for realizing an anti-racist future.
The Imagine Just initiative will include 15 community co-creation sessions over an eight-week campaign that began June 14 and ends August 8. These sessions seek to g3enerate ideas and gather feedback from stakeholders. With the new website, www.imaginejust.org, the public can submit and contribute their stories and ideas in response to four key themes:
What if our arts & culture sector utilized alternative models of leadership and decision-making?
What if our neighborhood cultural assets received fair and just investment?
What if our arts & culture sector had an accessible and resilient funding infrastructure?
What if our ALAANA/BIPOC arts and artists experienced equitable visibility?
“What makes this initiative different is our explicit focus on centering ALAANA and BIPOC voices and prioritizing those voices within the larger vision and the process by which it is shaped,” said Kyle Newton, Design Lead at Greater Good Studio, a Chicago-based social design firm that is facilitating Imagine Just’s community engagement. “Enrich Chicago is committed to sharing ownership and accountability of this vision and to cultivating a community of practice to work towards realizing this vision for an anti-racist arts and culture sector.”
Following the community engagement campaign, ideas will be organized into a vision with actionable strategies and collective outcomes. This vision will be shared with the community, on the imaginejust.org website and through a series of community showcases in the fall to build further momentum and commitment towards a Community of Practice that can activate and hold Chicago’s arts and culture sector accountable for systemic change.
“The arts and culture sector has the capacity to become a model for the rest of the city, and Chicago has the capacity to become a model for the country,” said Amina Dickerson, President, and Founder at Dickerson Global Advisors. “We have the opportunity to challenge the racist inequities of the past and to shape a new anti-racist future—a future where the arts and culture sector emerges stronger and more just, not only surviving but thriving.”
To learn more and sign up for the Imagine Just mailing list to receive updates regarding participation, visit www.imaginejust.org, and follow on Twitter and Instagram @ImagineJustCHI.