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Perspectives on the Cultural Plan:  Baraka de Soleil

Interviewer: Amina Dickerson


What is your title?

   Creative Practitioner

What is your involvement or role with the Cultural Plan?

Attended the Town Hall Meetings, neighborhood cultural conversations and often invited by the leaders of the NCC’s[Neighborhood Cultural Conversations] to be a facilitator for breakout sessions during these meetings. a self-appointed grass roots cultural worker of this plan, seeking to be present at the table whenever possible.

What meetings have you attended?

Attended ALL NCCs as well as the discipline meetings organized for the visual arts, dance (audience architects), and the session for interdisciplinary artists    (hosted by Co-prosperity Sphere)

What most intrigued or confounded you about the design of the cultural plan process ?

Most intriguing- and most valuable, is witnessing different neighborhoods engage in conversation with each other, explore potential for collaborations, people identifying other artists and resources in their community, networking. (for me) crossing-over into various communal spaces[neighborhoods] i didn’t get to go as a child ( i grew up in Chicago but just relocated after a 20 year hiatus) where i get  to experience multiple conversations on how culture impacts people’s lives.

What are your greatest hopes for the outcomes of the cultural plan?  (laughter) ultimately to be able to see this plan unfold in ways which foster deep rooted intersections of art, culture and ‘cultural’ conversations; inviting communities to experience each other beyond the boundaries of Chicago’s historically racially divided neighborhoods.

I also want to continue to advocate for everyone being at the table, everyone’s voices to be heard.  that’s why I  formed an ad hoc Facebook group Chi-CAGO [Chicago-Cultural Ad Hocracy Group Organizing] to keep people informed.

A vision — and what I want to establish is the new position of “creative liaison” (and I mentioned it during some of the cultural conversations).  What came out of the amazing conversations from the neighborhood meetings and what LORD consultants have inspired–  is a mechanism to continue & cultivate the rich fertile conversations unique to each neighborhood; as a way to move things forward.  How do these neighborhoods engage culture, creative placemaking, art as part of everyday lives?  How do we continue to hear  what people want & be held accountable to upholding their thoughts & ideas? (By establishing) creative [cultural] liaisons at the grassroots level, (they can be) actively involved in being a voice for the neighborhood, keeping the conversations going, providing feedback to the City on the continued implementation of the Cultural Plan.  This creates a living, fluid document, and plan.

What I’ve heard at many NCCs but also at artist based meetings–  is that we [all] must  activate this plan, continue to be aligned with the evolution of the plan. We all have a responsibility for making the plan come alive.  Artists have been at the forefront of neighborhood revitalization and should be at the forefront of this conversation, at the center of the neighborhood creative think tank in looking at culture.  Liaisons interfacing with neighborhoods in a way that is meaningful, proactive and invested…we must continue to listen to voices of the neighborhood. These cultural workers {cultural liaisons} would be the active ears to those voices & ideas…

Which, if any, of the six themes that have emerged most resonates with you?

I feel, and this is kind of political,  the role of the creative liaison will embody all six and puts artists at the forefront.  So– for example, how do we attract and retain artists?  The liaison role would look at how to position artists in the center of the conversations and will lead us to how to retain these artists, because they will be at the center.  We got a strong sense of what these neighborhoods want.  With the appointment of, say, 25 liaisons, it would allows for multiple neighborhoods to  converge and will create by definition create cross-pollination.  Such a role can help forge the conversations about important concerns of neighborhoods, like arts education, access and how to build that vitality within the neighborhoods.

*since this interview (which will  soon be on the Chicago cultural plan 2012’s website) i want to acknowledge initial key conversations with artists/cultural workers/planners – Mankwe Ndosi, Maritza Bautista & especially Meg Peterson who, while abroad, is significantly contributing to the vision & development of this cultural liaison role.  the conversation on the plan and this role continues with more artists, community members and all who are invested in the vision of  an innovative, fluid & grassroots-based cultural blueprint  for Chicago.

developing schema for community cultural liaison role – designed & envisioned by Meg Peterson, in conversation with Baraka de Soleil


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