Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum Expansion Celebration

Friday Art Break - Shonna McDaniels - Sojourner Truth African Heritage M...


"Art is Business"

FYI- hope you can respond to this Call For Action  -- the ordinance has been on the agenda since December 2020. I received an email at 1:26 AM on Friday, March 19th, and was able to send a form letter to the  Zoning committed but couldn't attend the public meeting at 10am because I was scheduled for my COVID-19 vaccination.  But thanks to all who send a strong and resounding message to the City of Chicago and I urge you to keep an active voice 

Many of you may have seen information about a proposed ordinance (O2020-6185) introduced by Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) would negatively impact Chicago’s long tradition of honoring and celebrating culture in our neighborhoods. The proposed ordinance would prohibit cultural exhibits, such as house museums, independent cultural institutions, and libraries, in nearly all residential districts. The ordinance would rob neighborhoods and residents of the ability to connect with their community’s heritage and build on Chicago’s vibrant cultural legacy.

There is also a lot more going on in the zoning amendment scenario than has been reported or responded to thus’s confusing and contradicting because there's more to it.
Join us in supporting local independent artist-run spaces and independent cultural institutions by submitting a letter opposing this proposed ordinance (O2020-6185) to the City Council Zoning Committee. Arts Alliance of Illinois shared a template letter that you can download here for your convenience. Letters are DUE BEFORE 9:00 am tomorrow (Friday, March 19). 

Sign and email the letter by tonight (Thursday) to: 
Alderman Sophia King (4th Ward): 
Raymond Valadez (Zoning Committee): 
Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward & Chair of the Zoning Committee):

This proposed ordinance is on the agenda for a Zoning Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 23rd, at 10:00 am.

House Museums Deserve a Community Process

It is important for us to protect both our cultural heritage and our community. They are not mutually exclusive.   The proposed ordinance was initiated in an effort to seek community engagement and support of museums as well as to provide assurances to the community that the museums will be an asset to the neighborhood. This process will also encourage the proposed museums to consider and engage the community, in its initial stages of planning so that there is an alignment of interests and support as we seek to preserve and protect the history and heritage in Chicago.  

Community members have raised numerous concerns regarding current proposals to convert existing homes into museums after learning that there are no procedural safeguards in place for current residents to weigh in, have their concerns addressed, and hopefully, to create an alliance between the proposed museum and the community.  

We are not trying to stop, inhibit, or deter cultural exhibits and museums, and we are certainly not trying to prevent important history from being acknowledged and celebrated.  We were met with many obstacles to landmark the “Ebony/Jet” building and to pay homage to Ida B. Wells (with the first street downtown named after an African American and Woman) so understand all too well the challenges to preserve our cultural treasures. 

We are, however, responsible for protecting the preservation of our history and our community. We understand and appreciate that certain homes have historical importance and need to be preserved, and that some should be an attraction.  But every home should not have this right and certainly the very community where it is being proposed should have input.  Even preserving a home via Landmark status comes with zoning consideration and a community process, which is all we are asking for here. 

Museums by their very nature are public attractions that may bring large numbers of people to them as well as affect traffic patterns and parking.  Currently, individuals can “as of right” turn their homes into museums, add stores to sell goods, and bring hundreds of people to the neighborhood, without adding parking and without any consideration for existing residents. Museums also have the absolute right to file for non-profit status and take their homes off the tax rolls, while potentially transferring some of the new costs and effect of changes to traffic and parking of the proposed museums to the community .  The ordinance we are proposing would bring transparency, community input and a process to a decision that impacts so many.

To put it in perspective, there are only 3 existing museums in the entire city that are in an RS1, RS2 or RS3 zone: Edgewater Historical Society, Norwood Park Historical Society and the Ridge Historical Society.  Each of them are on a main thoroughfare or arterial street, and on the edge of a residential neighborhood, not on a residential street. Edgewater’s president admits that "EHS was formed in 1988, after years of discussions among the community to form a historical society.” Why does he now want something different for our community? 

Our ordinance would change museums from “as of right” in Residential neighborhoods (RS1, RS2, and RS3 designation).  However, this doesn’t mean that one cannot have a museum in these areas. It just means that a proposed museum in those zoning jurisdictions would have to ask for zoning consideration and community input to do so. No current museum would be impacted by this ordinance.  And newly proposed museums in other zoning categories would have to add “a special use”. 

Notably, none of the individuals or organizations that are currently proposing museums live in the community that is being impacted.  We believe that something so significant, that might impact community residents’ quality of life and perhaps their single largest investment, should have a process for engagement and input. This ordinance proposes transparency, community input, and a process to make these impactful decisions.    

Sophia King

Alderman, 4th Ward
Thank you for the following-up. However, you need to be more focused on the violence in neighborhoods like carjackings, shootings, and other heinous acts occurring in and around neighborhoods. Leave artists run spaces alone! Art is equity and I have never heard of any occurrence or disruptive practices from these houses or spaces. In most neighborhoods, artist-run spaces and neighborhoods are a cohesive collective, because neighborhoods know that art and culture bring vibrancy are valuable to the community. 

The Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission (BMNHAC) has been working since 2004 to develop a Sustainable International African American Heritage Tourism.  Heritage Tourism Development is all about Multiple Sites and attractions and (guess what?) we have all finally moved from Feasibility to Development.  We are experiencing some expected growing pains, for some we’ve gone from incubation to acceleration very quickly but it's been decades of planning and it was possible because the infrastructure was already in place.  We enjoy a historical blueprint that is foundational to our efforts.

I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Alderman King and the Michael Reese community Advisory Committee for 4 years.  She's working, strategic, and methodical, her track record and victories speak for themselves.  Similarly, the BMNHAC is focused on innovating a solution and has asked our community-based Think Tank the Urban Innovation Center to design another win-win-win solution. What is emerging is a much broader vision for our cultural economic development platform.  

The Thought Leaders feel that it is important to design a pivot because it does not serve our interests to counter a community empowerment theme. It's not an either-or situation. Most of the folks on this thread are both civic and social entrepreneurs. The Urban innovation Center has adopted the five principles and phases of cultural heritage tourism development.  Step One is Collaborate   Let’s acknowledge the business that we are in and understand what we are developing, an international destination. The African American Community and the Preservation community is experienced in mounting the fight, it’s time to plan the win!

Five Guiding Principles
  1. Collaboration – identify partners that can help meet the goals of the project
  2. Find What Fits – determine realistic types of cultural heritage tourism the community needs and can provide support for
  3. Enliven Site Interpretation – find ways to engage the visitors five senses (hearing, seeing, reading, and doing)
  4. Focus on what is authentic and unique about the community
  5. Preserve and Protect Cultural Sites & Resources (buildings, special places, landscapes, and qualities that attracts visitors)
  6. Cultural Heritage Tourism Development Phases or Steps

Identify Human and Financial Resources
Prepare for Visitors, Protect and Manage Cultural, Historic and Natural Resources
Public Relations, Advertising, Graphic Materials (including signs), and Promotions
Paula Robinson
Bronzeville Partners LLC
Managing Member

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"Art is Business" Sunday, March 21, 2021, at 2pm | Virtual
"In Focus" is a monthly lecture series that features a variety of talks and presentations by ​artists, art professionals, historians, and more! Learn more about our upcoming lectures below.

On Sunday, March 21, 2021, at 2pm, join us for a lecture about Pop-Up Research Station, a Portal to Documenting Our Art Legacy featuring Alpha Bruton and Liza Simone. 

This lecture is a part of the ongoing EAC series, "In Focus." "In Focus" features a variety of talks and presentations by ​artists, art professionals, historians, and more!

Phantom Gallery Chicago's Alpha Bruton and Phantom Galleries LA Liza Simone have created a network of support for artists, curators, and arts organizers who are engaged in temporary public art installations, storefronts, and projects that engage community response. We envision the project as a portal for shared knowledge, a resource of best practices, ongoing professional development, and a place for moral support to enhance our collective impact.

In 2012 we launched a Podcast produced by GYST Radio on BlogTalkRadio. Pop-Up Research Station developed gradually: hosting "Creative Conversations" that explored “Temporary Public Art Installations,” ” Storefront Art Movements,” “Creative Place-making,” and projects that are the impetus for “Cultural Urban Planning.”

The Pop-Up Research Station is a place to glean information. We see the Pop-Up Research Station as the portal to documenting our legacy, giving emerging curators and artists new to the world of creative placemaking a “Tool Kit” that has already been 20 years in the making, researched, developed, and implemented by artists who have carved out niches and built new communities from empty storefront to monthly art walks, and virtual trolley tours.

"Creative Conversation" on BlogTalkRadio will cover snapshots of artist stories, host honest discussions on the problems we face, offer a support system, and solicit advice on how to avoid the potholes moving forward. The interviews done for Pop-up Research Station are conversational and geared toward the artist’s mindset but will be helpful for those interested in our projects as a research tool.