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A $1 million boost for arts in neighborhoods will be ‘powerful,’ Mayor Lightfoot says

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Half of the increase will be earmarked for projects in underserved neighborhoods

A blue and white floral mural on the wall of an underpass in a park.
A mural in Chinatown’s Ping Tom Memorial Park by Andy Bellomo, Chester Chow, and Anna Murphy.
Getty Images

The city’s arts funding may get a significant boost under Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

This week, the mayor’s office announced that funding for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Cultural Grants Program (DCASE) will jump 60 percent from $1.7 million to $2.7 million.

Half of the $1 million increase will be set aside for projects located on the South and West sides of the city—wards traditionally underserved by the program.

“The arts are powerful. Now more than ever, it is essential that we lift up and invest in our unparalleled Chicago artists,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “A robust Chicago arts community inspires us, engages us, questions the status quo and has the power to bring our diverse city together in conversation around the critical challenges of our day.”

More specifically, the plan calls for $140,000 in general operating funding for arts and cultural organizations and $300,000 for DCASE’s Microgrant Program, which is being renamed the Neighborhood Access program. It will allocate grants up to $50,000 for projects in under-resourced neighborhoods focused on “increasing diversity, access, and inclusion.”

Approximately $460,000 will be designated to projects and artists in alignment with DCASE’s “Year of” themes celebrating: public art, creative youth, and theater. The arts initiative was launched by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had a reputation for being a patron of the arts. If the additional $1 million in funds is approved for DCASE’s budget, the department is planning a Year of Music for 2020 that will focus on the city’s rich heritage in everything from house, rap, hip-hop, blues, jazz, rock, and gospel.