Save the Neighborhood Arts Festivals

  • by: Gayle Weiss
  • target: Chicago Artists and Non Profit Arts Organizations

In short, the convergent and accumulated loss of Lois Weisberg as Cultural Arts Director, the death of Maggie Daley, our most dedicated arts advocate, and the retirement of our mayor, was a horrible trifecta, leaving local arts organizations' festivals exposed to certain hardship in the near run and the very real possibility of their disappearance in the long run.

In a little publicized move by Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel and city counsel, sweeping budget constraints will seriously affect
neighborhood art fairs and festivals. One new mandate stipulates that these neighborhood fairs can no longer be subsidized by the Alderman's offices in the form of permit fee waivers.

By doing this,city counsel
has divested the extremely complicated arts arena to individual non-profit organizations and thus to individual artists who are the least financially able to weather the cost increases.

Mayor Emanuel and the Aldermen must understand the long range implications of this divestiture resulting in the very real and harsh possibility of many long running and popular neighborhood events shutting down. And, without rescinding the new policy, these neighborhood events will most likely disappear from the landscape altogether.

If Chicago is truly to continue as a world class city, it needs to support the residents, the neighborhoods, the local artists and the non-profit arts organizations that give meaning to our communities, not penalize them with higher costs. Otherwise, Chicago is just another cog in a giant corporate wheel grinding down the city's greater good in the name of profit.

We recognize that:

      • Permit fee waivers have been buoying neighborhood events for years.

      • There is little savings to the city by eliminating waivers, only an added cost burden to local arts organizations who can least afford it.

      • Without waivers, the additional cost of running the fests will be passed down to local artists in the form of higher booth fees.

      • The new ordinance seriously threatens the ongoing existence of these vibrant and wonderfully attended neighborhood events. 

      • The void could very well be filled with large out of town event promoters who can afford the permit fees, and who bring in non-resident talent and who take profits out of our local communities

      • The move by city counsel is very short-sighted and counterproductive.


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