Get Ready for Activating Heritage 2022!

Get Ready for Activating Heritage 2022!

Our annual Activating Heritage conference for arts and culture professionals is starting soon, March 21-25. We’re excited to share with you everything we’ve got in store this year. Read below to learn a little more about Activating Heritage. We hope you’ll join us!

What Is the Activating Heritage conference?

Activating Heritage is an annual conference developed and delivered by the Alliance, in cooperation with Partners and Core Members. The conference connects our Members and other arts & culture workers from across the Chicago region with meaningful, capacity-building presentations and workshops facilitated by a host of scholars and leaders in the field. By reviewing best practices in financial management, marketing and communications, grant writing, collections practices, and other topics, the Alliance strengthens our members’ capacity to fulfill their significant and unique missions.

Mosaicdragon dancers

Guests at a past Activating Heritage.

What can we expect from this year’s Activating Heritage?

The conference theme this year is “The Stories We Tell.” Sessions on topics from budgeting to oral history management will all connect back to the power of narratives and storytelling.

The first day’s events on Monday, March 21 will take place in-person at DANK Haus German American Cultural Center. We’ll kick off with a Plenary Session panel with Emmy-winning reporter Adriana Cardona-Maguigad and Media Burn Executive Director Sarah Chapman in discussion on the power of narratives, moderated by award-winning storyteller Ada Cheng. We’ll follow that with a presentation of the Alliance’s Outstanding Community Award Leader nominations. Then a Networking Brunch will start at 12pm, with food from Blue Sky Bakery.

All sessions from Tuesday through Friday will be hosted online, available to join live via Zoom or to watch via a secure livestream. We have a wide range of speakers lined up to share their insights and expertise, including:

  • Christena Gunther, Founder and President, Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium
  • Carlos Hevia, Director of Business Development, Multilingual Connections
  • Latham Zearfoss, Cultural Liaison for the Cultural Asset Mapping Project
  • And lots more

Who should come to Activating Heritage?

Museum workers, curators, artists, educators, nonprofit professionals, humanities students, historians, cultural heritage workers. Anyone who loves culture and believes it is worth preserving and sharing may find the conference valuable and is welcome to attend!

Sounds great! Where do I register?

Hooray! We’ll see you there! 

Register online at or click the button below. General Registration is $35, Partner Members are $25, Core Members are $20, and Students are $12.

The Chicago Cultural Alliance is committed to economic equity and inclusion. If you are in need of financial support for admission expenses, please email [email protected].

We’re proud of the conference lineup we’ve prepared for you this year and hope to see you there. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions!

Marie Rowley, Marketing and Communications Manager

Alliance Welcomes New Member: South Asia Institute

Alliance Welcomes New Member: South Asia Institute

SAI blog post cover

Please join us in welcoming the newest Core Member of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, South Asia Institute! Core Members are first-voice, community-driven organizations that preserve a specific cultural perspective, experience, and living history through programs, exhibits, or collections work.

South Asia Institute joins an active alliance of 45 other cultural heritage institutions spanning over 25 Chicago neighborhoods and 9 suburbs and representing more than 30 cultures from around the world. Let’s learn more about SAI!

SAI gallery

The main gallery at South Asia Institute. Photo courtesy of South Asia Institute.

South Asia Institute’s History and Mission

SAI’s Mission: South Asia Institute cultivates the art and culture of South Asia and its diaspora through curated exhibitions, innovative programs and educational initiatives. We collaborate locally and globally to engage diverse communities in enriching creative experiences, support artistic production by emerging and established artists and foster cultural appreciation for the South Asian diaspora.

SAI building

SAI grew out of the love of its founders, Shireen & Afzal Ahmad, for collecting South Asian art. After 50+ years of collecting, they had one of the largest collections of South Asian art in America and wanted to share it with the community. They established South Asia Institute in a landmark building in the Motor Row district of the South Loop and lovingly restored it. (pictured at left, photo courtesy of South Asia Institute)

SAI has grown to share not only art, but also music, films, book readings, and all aspects of the culture of South Asia.

current SAI exhibit

The main gallery at South Asia Institute. Photo courtesy of South Asia Institute.

Visit SAI!

Their beautiful space hosts a gallery with rotating exhibitions that you can visit. Through March 5, 2022, the gallery is hosting the exhibition “Ravi Shankar: Ragamala to Rockstar: A Retrospective of The Maestro’s Life in Music.”

You can also check out their schedule of events for ongoing cultural programming!

Upcoming events:

Online Talk: Oliver Craske Discusses “Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar”
Saturday, February 19, 2022
4:00 PM-6:00 PM


Film Screening | Ravi and Anoushka Shankar Live in Bangalore
Saturday, March 5, 2022
4:00 PM-6:00 PM
1925 South Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60616


We’re so excited to welcome the newest Core Member of the Alliance and looking forward to working with them in the coming years! Check out South Asia Institute’s programming and gallery.

Marie Rowley, Marketing and Communications Manager

How to Celebrate Lunar New Year in Chicago

How to Celebrate Lunar New Year in Chicago

It’s time to celebrate Lunar New Year in Chicago!

Get ready to kick off the Year of the Tiger! Lunar New Year starts on February 1 this year, and it’s time to celebrate! Lunar New Year is a great time to reflect on the past, welcome the changing of the seasons, get ready for the year ahead, and learn a little more about the diverse communities that call Chicago home.

Mosaicdragon dancers
Dragon Dancers at the Alliance’s 2014 Mosaic Gala. Photo by Jason Brown Photography

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in many cultures across East Asia, and to people of East Asian descent across the world. While in America the new year starts on January 1, as determined by the Gregorian calendar, many cultures instead mark time by moon cycles. Lunar New Year always falls on the first New Moon to appear between January 21 and February 20.

Lunar New Year is a major holiday in China, Korea, Singapore, Japan, Tibet, Vietnam, and Mongolia, and many other countries celebrate as well. Specifically in China, it is known as the Spring Festival. Though it occurs in the coldest time of year, it is a hopeful time of looking forward to the new year and the coming of spring.

How to Celebrate Lunar New Year in Chicago

Because we have diverse communities across the city and suburbs, of course there are going to be some Lunar New Year celebrations in Chicago! Check out some events where you can learn more about this holiday and the cultures that celebrate it:

Chinese New Year Online Celebration

The Chinese American Museum of Chicago is hosting a virtual Lunar New Year celebration this year! Join them on Wednesday, February 2 at 6pm for a free event where you can learn about the holiday, hear musical performances, enjoy the lion dance, and lots more. Register here.

korean furniture flyer

Korean Traditional Furniture Exhibition

The Korean Cultural Center of Chicago is doing something a little different for Lunar New Year– an exhibition celebrating the beautiful decorative arts of traditional Korean furniture. It’s a fun and interesting way to learn more about Korean culture in a more relaxed setting. Learn more here.

argyle lunar new year

Argyle Lunar New Year Celebration and Parade

The diverse neighborhood of Uptown has hosted a Lunar New Year celebration in Chicago for over 40 years! This year is no different, with a parade and other festivities kicking off on February 5th. Learn more here.

Have fun! Hoping the Year of the Tiger brings you health and happiness. 

Marie Rowley, Marketing and Communications Manager

Your Chicago Culture Holiday Shopping Guide

Your Chicago Culture Holiday Shopping Guide

This year, you can shop small, support local cultural institutions, and beat the shipping headaches from big retailers using our Chicago Culture Holiday Shopping Guide. The Chicago Cultural Alliance includes over 40 cultural heritage centers, museums, and heritage societies across Chicago’s neighborhoods and suburbs. Many of them have online and in-person gift shops where you can find the perfect item for the culture lover in your life! For books, arts, clothing, jewelry, music, artisanal crafts, and things you can’t even imagine you need, our Members have got you covered.

And by the way, I know you might have a loved one on your list who says they already have everything they need or they’d love an “experience” instead of a “gift.” In that case, consider buying them a Membership to a small museum or making a donation in their name! Those help out small institutions a lot.

Core members

straw pine cone decoration


6500 S Pulaski Rd
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm. Sun, 12pm-4pm. 
Lots to discover at the Balzekas’ Museum gift shop, like Lithuanian cookbooks, linens, even teas and seasonings. I love in particular the straw Christmas ornaments, which are a hallmark of Lithuanian Christmastime and trace their history to Lithuanians in Chicago! (Make one yourself at the workshop at the museum on Sat, Dec 11.)
Shop online here.

bronzeville candle


4455 S King Dr, Suite 103.
Hours: Fri and Sat, 10am-4pm.
A selection of awesome gifts that celebrate Black history and culture, like t-shirts, handmade jewelry, and personal care items, all by local creators. You could buy a whole basket of lotions, candles, and body scrubs from CSG Naturals, which smell great and are made right here in Chicago.  
Email [email protected] with inquiries. 


Their t-shirts, hoodies and other goods honor Scottish heroes of the past with funky designs AND your purchase supports a local charity, Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care. Very cool.
Shop online here. 


238 W 23rd St
Hours: Wed and Fri, 9:30am-2pm. Sat and Sun, 10am-4pm.
This gift shop has lots of book options that illuminate the stories and contributions of Chinese Americans to history. Check out Chinatown in Chicagowhich was actually created by the CAMOC! 
Shop online here.

hamoc cd


Show your love for HAMOC with a mug, postcard, or Haitian flag, or groove out with some music produced by Alliance Partner Member Crossing Borders Music, like “Beyond the Headlines: Haiti in Music.” 
Shop online here

her majesty da queen dvd cover


Hibernian Media produces stories that keep the culture of Ireland alive, so their online store of course has some lively books and DVDs. Check out “Her Majesty Da’ Queen,” a documentary that gave a backstage peek at the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade queen contest.
Shop online here

stop hate enamel pin


9603 Woods Dr, Skokie
Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm.
All purchases support the Museum’s mission: “Remember the Past, Transform the Future,” and so you’ll find many items here that inspire, uplift, and remind us to build a better world. I’m partial to the simple “Stop Hate” enamel pin.
Shop online here

iahc gift shop sign


4626 N Knox Ave
Hours: Fri, 4pm-8pm, and Sat, 10am-4pm.

Whether you are hungry for sweets from the Galway Bakers or savories from Winston, you can find your Irish favorites at the Irish American Heritage Center Gift Shop. You can find crafts from our own Nimble Thimbles, including hand-sewn face masks, aprons, and quilts. The Gift Shop also carries woolens from Aran Mills, Irish caps, candles and diffusers from Inis, and even authentic turf directly from Ireland so your fireplace smells like home.


3001 Central St, Evanston
Hours: Wed, 10am-5pm, and Sat, 10am-5pm.

Their gift shop contains a collection of incredible items created by talented Native artists and craftspeople from across America. With books, jewelry, art, accessories, and more, there are unique items for everyone. My pick: Handmade Nizhoni soaps from the Navajo Nation, in Blue Corn Pollen scent.
Shop online here.

polish eagle ornament


984 North Milwaukee Ave
Hours: Tues, Thurs, Sat, 11am-4pm.
An awesome array of souvenirs, books, Christmas ornaments, and more, all reflecting Polish culture and artistic flair. A good find: A Polish Eagle glass Christmas ornament
Shop online here


sscac poster


“When you purchase a product from the South Side Community Art Center, you support the legacy and future of African American art and artists.” You also get a great gift. Options include apparel and gifts with the SSCAC’s colorful logo, or a very cool historical poster featuring 100 Black artists posing on the center’s front steps in 1958! 
Shop online here.

swedish socks


5211 N Clark St
Hours (through Dec 30): Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm (Fri, Dec 17 extended hours to 8pm). Sat & Sun, 11am-4pm.

The gift shop at the Swedish American Museum always packs in the holiday goodies, with Swedish treats, ornaments, and gifts galore. Pick up some cozy socks or some fresh, locally-baked pastries.
Shop online here.

trickster earrings


190 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg
Hours: Tues-Fri, 10am-5pm. Sat, 10am-3pm.

An incredible array of pottery, jewelry, artwork and statues created by Native artists. There are almost too many to choose, so go browse the whole collection. Here’s a favorite of mine: delicate black and white beaded earrings by Kimberly LaRonge (LCO Ojibwe). 
Shop online here.

caulfield postcard


2320 W Chicago Ave
Hours: Wed-Sun, 12pm-4pm

Unsurprisingly for UIMA, you’ll find some thought-provoking and artistic items in the gift shop! Books, postcards and posters celebrate the legacy of Ukrainian artists. Buy the Patrick Caufield postcard bundle and pass them out to friends or liven up your home office.
Shop online here

partner members

awm storymatic game


180 N Michigan Ave
For the writer (or reader) in your life, the AWM celebrates the written word. I love the games and puzzles for kids in particular.

Shop online here

pencil necklace


756 N Milwaukee Ave
Intuit’s online and in person gift shop is full of beautiful, fascinating, one-of-a-kind objects made by artists. Brighten up someone’s life with a unique creation like the Lady Liberty Pencil Necklace by Pencil Lady.

Shop online here

chm chicago whispers book cover


One of the best stores in the city for history lovers! A great book selection of course, like Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall by St. Sukie De La Croix.

Shop online here

lion key chain


It goes without saying that a world class art museum will have an awesome gift shop for art lovers. My recommendation? Look how cute the enamel keychain of the iconic Art Institute lion is!
Shop online here. 

sue pajamas


The obvious choice for science lovers! Get your favorite niece or nephew these Sue the T-rex footie pajamas, because it’s never too early to learn about dinosaurs OR preferred pronouns.

Shop online here.



A Statement in Observation of the Juneteenth Holiday

A Statement in Observation of the Juneteenth Holiday

The Chicago Cultural Alliance observes Juneteenth —also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day—as an official holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865.

On that date, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War, Union Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston Texas, where some Black people were still enslaved. Granger issued a proclamation to the people of Texas re-affirming that based on President Lincoln’s order, all enslaved people were free.

There are currently forty-seven states, and the District of Columbia, that recognize Juneteenth as either an official or ceremonial holiday. A bill to recognize Juneteenth as a paid state holiday was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly and passed this week. We ask that you join the Alliance in observing Juneteenth so it is recognized by more citizens of the United States and internationally. 


Proposed Zoning Ordinance Restricts Cultural Activities

Proposed Zoning Ordinance Restricts Cultural Activities

Dear Chairman Tunney and Members of the Committee,

Recently, Landmarks Illinois and the Alphawood Foundation informed the Chicago Cultural Alliance about a proposed zoning amendment that would restrict establishing cultural exhibits and the housing of museums in “R” zoning districts and require special use permits. This proposal is in stark contrast to the mission of the Chicago Cultural Alliance. The Alliance is an arts advocacy organization that provides professional services to 42 ethnic museums, historical societies, and community centers, which we call our Core Members. Our members operating in “R” districts are active and central meeting places that contribute to stabilizing and improving their blocks and neighborhoods.

The Alliance was founded by and for Chicago’s neighborhood-based cultural institutions. Our mission is to promote, support, and connect centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive and equitable Chicago. Our members represent 30 different cultures around the world and are all based in 30 of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods and 10 suburbs.

These institutions protect and highlight Chicago’s history, foster economic stability through partnerships with local businesses and family-owned restaurants, and address residents’ needs in your wards and throughout the city. The Chicago Cultural Alliance strongly opposes this proposed zoning amendment. It will harm neighborhoods and create more uncertainty for these vital community institutions who are already a vulnerable class of small businesses because of the pandemic. It would also curtail other organizations who are planning to establish new museums and cultural exhibits, including the former home of Muddy Waters and a museum dedicated to Emmett Till.

The Alliance and our members provide cultural activities, education opportunities for teachers and students, and stimulate local business in neighborhoods. We also actively connect and partner with Alderman and Chambers of Commerce to emphasize how these institutions strengthen and rebuild our city. If members of the zoning committee want to learn more about our work, we invite you to join our monthly virtual town halls on the first Fridays of each month. If the Zoning Committee chooses to participate, please contact me at [email protected].

We urge you to vote against any change in the zoning code that will disallow and discourage our members’ operations. The proposal will seriously jeopardize the stability of neighborhood institutions that tell inclusive, equitable, and honest stories about this city and its people.