The City of Chicago adopted a new Cultural Plan in 2012. The planning process was initiated with lead support from Mayor Emanuel and was spearheaded by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Events (DCA).


Arts advocates in the city of Chicago identified cultural planning as an election and campaign issue. The last two plans that included arts and culture elements were produced in 1986 and 1966.The Mayor mandated the cultural plan as a priority for completion in the first year of the administration.

Primary Partners:

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Events; internal working group; consultant team; external Steering Committee


The planning process was primarily funded by private philanthropic sources. Plan implementation has been funded with municipal resources; the department overseeing implementation is funded in part by hotel/motel tax revenue from the city.


Candidate and Mayor Emmanuel appointed an arts transition team consisting of non-municipal arts leaders, which identified priorities for the cultural plan. The Plan was completed over a 12-month period. The City’s Director of Cultural Planning, Julie Burros, managed the plan development process including consultants, contracts, funder relationships, an internal working group, and a steering committee.

The development process for the plan included research and analysis using local and national data, and public engagement in the form of town hall meetings; neighborhood conversations, social media exchanges, meetings with segments of the cultural sector; forums with thought leaders; stakeholder interviews; website and blog engagement; and visioning forums.


The cultural planning process seeded several activities, including:

  • development of a cultural tourism strategy for the city;
  • improvements to the grantmaking policy and functions of the DCA, including the launch of Incentovate a $.5 million grantmaking fund – the first major growth in arts and culture grant dollars achieved since the 1986 cultural plan;
  • City commitment of $1 million towards plan implementation, this amount was expanded to 1.7 million in the second year of plan implementation; and
  • funding for an Arts Education Plan — one of the implementation next steps identified in the Cultural Plan.

Learn more:

Chicago Cultural Plan. City of Chicago website: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/cultural_plan.html/

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