Chicago Cultural Alliance Website


Reflecting the diverse heritage, traditions, and histories of Core Members and their constituent communities is at the root of Alliance programming and services. Core Members' sites are more than traditional museums, also serving as touchstones of ethnic identity and as spaces devoted to community gather and dialogue. Central to the Alliance's mission is the idea that cross-cultural understanding benefits all humans, not just those from specific ethnic communities.

In 2009, the Alliance approved its Civic Engagement Model, which will guide all future organizational programming. This model emphasizes analysis, interpretation, and the inclusion of Core Member communities in public dialogues and debates.

Our programming is partially supported by a CityArts Program I grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs; llinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly; and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Talking About...
Talking About... brings together Core Member communities to discuss significant contemporary issues, such as immigration, ethnic identity, climate change, and health care, from the perspectives and experiences of the community members. The program includes training for Core Members about how to organize, deliver, and facilitate community discussions. The series currently consists of two types of programs: dialogue sessions and public panel discussions. In the dialogue sessions, small groups of six to ten people engage in moderated discussion about issues of contemporary significance; Core Members use their ethnographic collections and artwork as a starting point for discussion. In the public panel discussions, a moderator leads discussion and audience Q&A about a specific topic with a panel of Core Member representatives. The first of these programs, on the topic of immigration, was held in October 2009 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Through our panel discussions, the Alliance delivers a diversity of perspectives, including voices from different cultures, continents, and immigration experiences.

This series is funded in part by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

Telling Our Stories: Environmentally Friendly Communities
Through this collaboration with the division of Environment. Culture, and Conservation at the Field Museum (a Partner Institution), the Alliance explores the connection between cultural practice and environmental sustainability. Core Members elicit community narratives about heritage-related values and practices that can be revived, reinvented, validated, and encouraged to help communities become more sustainable. Within this program, Core Members begin to link heritage and neighborhood assets related to climate change mitigation and environmental sustainability; they will act as leaders in their communities as they become more involved in regional initiatives that address the environment.

This program is funded by the Comer Foundation and the Field Museum.

Conservation and Collections
This program is a collaboration between the Alliance and conservators at the Field Museum and the Chicago History Museum (Partner Institutions). The ultimate goal of this program is to ensure that Core Members' collections, which tell the story of Chicago's communities, remain accessible to the public. Through this project, the Alliance is conducting comprehensive preservation reviews of participating Core Members' collections. In addition, professional conservators from the Chicago History Museum and the Field Museum deliver a series of hands-one workshops concerning best practices for the storage, handling, and display of artifacts and collections.

This program is funded by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

Building Strong, Building Smart: A Capacity-Building Series
Building Strong, Building Smart is a workshop series developed and delivered by the Alliance, in cooperation with Partner Institutions, for Core Members, the aim of which is to build Core Members' organizational capacity. By reviewing best practices in organizational management areas, including financial management, developing an online presence, grant writing, and board development, the Alliance strengthens our members' capacity to fulfill their significant and unique missions.

This program is currently funded in part by The Chicago Community Trust.


From 2007-2009, the Alliance facilitated the delivery of smARTscopeTM, a self-assessment survey, to 16 Core Members, in conjunction with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago. In 2010, the Alliance itself and four additional Core Members will participate in the survey and subsequent programming. SmARTscopeTM measures organizational development in seven key management areas with the goal of creating strong, balanced organizations. It begins with an online survey completed by staff, board members, and volunteers and the participating organization; Core Members then work with consultants to create a final report and plan next steps. The collections results are an important tool for the Alliance to understand the strengths and needs of Core members and to develop appropriate capacity-building workshops and programming.

This program is currently funded by The Chicago Community Trust; earlier funding was provided by the Joyce Foundation.

Cultural Café
Cultural Cafe is a multi-cultural arts and humanities program centered on particular subjects and cultural traditions, e.g. poetry, cuisine, song, etc. Multiple performers/experts from different Core Member communities present their culturally-informed version of the topic at hand. It will launch in Spring 2010.

Why Heritage Matters in the Contemporary World
In 2010, the Alliance will deliver content-specific sessions to build Core Members expertise and help them develop strategies about how to incorporate issues of contemporary significance into their exhibits and programming. The first such session will be training on climate change provided by the Field Museum's division of Environment, Culture, and Conservation; this session will draw on Core Members' collections and utilize specific examples from the Field Museum.



Youth Connecting Communities with Nature
The Alliance participated in this summer project, in which four Core Members sought to increase the investment of their youth in nature and their communities' outdoor experiences while exploring cultural assets and social issues that link their communities to nature. The four participants included Bronzeville/Black Chicagoan Historical Society, Indo-American Center, Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, and Swedish American Museum.

This project was funded by the Chicago Wilderness's "Leave No Child Inside" initiative.


Chicago Cultural Alliance
The Chicago Cultural Alliance is a partnership of Chicago's ethnic museums and cultural centers whose mission is to effect social change and public understanding of cultural diversity through first voice perspectives. Learn More About the Chicago Cultural Alliance

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