Chicagoans Value the Arts – But Which Neighborhoods Get Access?

Chicago united in wanting access to arts, but divided by neighborhoods: 28 of 77 home to 0 arts orgs Tweet This

Share this article Tweet about this on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Email this to someone

All across Chicago, residents value and appreciate the arts. But getting access to them is another story—one that all depends on where you live.

A public study of Chicago residents in 2014 revealed that 79% of respondents believe “arts and culture improve the livability of their communities.” But at the same time, 49% report that arts or cultural activities are unavailable where they live. Breaking it down by neighborhood:

“Arts and cultural activities are not readily available in my neighborhood”:

  • 63% of South Side residents agree
  • 61% of Far South Side residents agree
  • 61% of Southwest Side residents agree
  • 60% of West Side residents agree
  • 43% of Northwest Side residents agree
  • 34% of North Side residents agree
  • 11% of Downtown residents agree

And their perceptions reflect the data. The Loop houses 62 arts organizations; the nearby Near North Side, Lakeview and West Town neighborhoods each boast numbers in the 30s. In contrast, 28 of Chicago’s neighborhoods are home to no arts organizations at all.

Data map of Chicago showing how accessible residents in various communities feel the arts are in their neighborhoods.Source: Chicago Arts and Culture Public Survey


This disparity—and the desire residents express for more arts in their communities—is why The Chicago Community Trust funds organizations increasing arts participation among demographic groups or in geographic areas where it is currently limited. Through our grant dollars, we aim to support cultural assets in every neighborhood, and to minimize the barriers to participation.

  • Over the past three years, the Trust has funded 16 cultural events in neighborhoods that are home to zero arts and culture organizations, and 75 cultural events in neighborhoods with 4 or fewer arts nonprofits.
  • Trust grants funded 30 organizations that produced events in 43 different locations across the City and 7 across the Cook County suburbs during the last grant year. Over half of these events were in areas of the city where residents report having poor access to arts opportunity.

The Trust has also focused grant funding on collaborations: funding two or more organizations in different communities to partner on a project that strengthens and expands possibilities for both groups. These partnerships have ranged from a collaboration between the Chicago History Museum and the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, taking CHM’s My Chinatown exhibit to the smaller museum’s space within the actual Chinatown, to the 50th anniversary celebration of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a collective created by African-American musicians and composers seeking to establish control over their music and their royalties.

By using current and comprehensive data illustrating the cultural assets within all 77 community areas, the Trust strives to build vibrancy and equity in the arts for all of Chicago’s residents, within the neighborhoods they call home.