The 77 Communities Initiative

Photo: Brad Knight

Recent research, extracted from the Point the Way report by Learning for Action of a coalition of Chicago arts and culture funders and capacity builders, shows nonprofit organizations in resource-depleted areas (often communities of color) experience a significant disadvantage in management capacity and infrastructure, often lacking even the capability of determining which issues to address first. Additionally, the Field Foundation of Illinois’s Heat Maps show residents in the study area are less than 10% Caucasian, which leads us to understand how racial inequity may be a factor in the decline in Chicago’s artistic vibrancy (Since 2015, Chicago’s ranking has dropped from 10th to 16th).

By laying over our own Engagement Map, we see how many nonprofit arts and cultural enterprises we serve in the study area. There is barely any cross over!  So, in response we’ve avowed, “A&BC will reach all 77 communities by 2020.”


Starting in January 2019 and carrying though 2020, the Arts & Business Council of Chicago (A&BC) will work to expand and deepen its delivery of programs and services through the 77 Communities Initiative (77CI)  – a realignment of resources to prioritize supporting creative enterprises in divested communities.

Through 77CI, A&BC will:

  1. Give principal consideration to minorities along with communities and enterprises that are perpetually marginalized in the arts and culture landscape due to historical and cultural, political and socio-economic inequities;
  2. Listen to and build relationship among volunteers, community stakeholders, and artist-entrepreneurs; and
  3. Co-create solutions and opportunities to advance our city’s creative aspirations and potential, as measured by increased creative production, philanthropic support, earned revenue, and readiness for and paths to capital services and procurement.
Engagement Strategy

To further advance our city’s creative aspirations and potential, A&BC will provide annexes, a  “mobile field office” program. These events—designed to bring our pro bono services directly into neighborhoods and advance local economic development efforts—are offered in partnership with community-based organizations, Chicago Public Libraries, and Chicago Park District Cultural Centers (South Shore, Austin Town Hall, Palmer park, Douglass Park, Piotrowski Park, Marquette Park, Berger Park, and Humbolt Park.)

Additional methods of engagement, to date, include having:

  • Mapped all 77 Communities over the past five years, acknowledging (as of 1/1/19) we had engaged with art makers in only 36 (47%) of our 77 Communities;
  • Developed a strategy to engage with art makers in the other 41 Communities, by 12/31/20 and achieved 2019 Q1, Q2, Q3 goals – now having reached 51 of our 77 communities;
  • Invited and settled a cohort of 10 ALAANA (African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab and Native American) organizations to work together over two years to co-create a capacity building plan (7 of these organizations come from the aforementioned 41 Communities);
  • Modified our volunteer training and orientation to integrate anti-racist education that provides critical perspectives on racial inequities in arts and culture landscape and art and culture funding; and,
  • Expanded and diversified our volunteer corps, which is central to our delivery of services, so that communities will be the direct beneficiaries of those who work and/or live in those communities.
  • Researched and wrote the 77 Communities Briefs, which illuminates, expands and challenges concepts of “traditional” demographics and what is considered a cultural asset, especially those that are arts-adjacent. Additionally, the Briefs recognize opportunities for partnerships that promote community and economic development though the creative sector. The Briefs are provided to A&BC’s Board & Volunteers as an extension of the programmatic changes we’ve made to undo racist theories and practices in our work; and will be used to re) engage Corporate Partners and to identify future Annex sites.

For more information on 77CI, email