Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hub=Good; District=Bad? Cultural Plan neighborhood meetings start tonight

Posted By on 02.29.12 at 03:25 PM

Mayor Emanuel's big idea for the arts—as laid out last spring in his transition plan—calls for the creation of "branded" cultural hubs around the city, starting with three neighborhood pilot programs. But last week a pair of civic planning experts told an audience at the Cultural Center, including members of the mayor's team, that designated arts districts are a bad idea.

"We argue against even using the rubric," said academic and consultant Ann Markusen, adding that the creation of such districts is "really problematic."

According to the mayor's plan, "Much as the downtown theatre district has created a destination for theatrical entertainment, the concentration of artistic activity and assets in certain neighborhoods can be shaped into cultural hubs and creative industry centers. . .corridors that can serve as centers of leisure activity for both residents and tourists."

But Markusen and Anne Gadwa, co-authors of a recent NEA-sponsored study, "Creative Placemaking," said they oppose the arts district strategy because it can pit neighborhoods against each other and "implies that other districts [in the city] do not have arts."

If there's a difference between a "district" and a "hub," maybe it'll be made clear tonight, at the first of a series of public "neighborhood conversations" about what should go into the city's new cultural plan. It will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Austin-Irving Branch Library, 6100 W. Irving Park Rd.

If you can't make it tonight, the next meeting is at 6:00 PM tomorrow (March 1) at the Cambodian American Heritage Museum, 2831 W. Lawrence. Check here for a complete list.

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