Community Annexes

The Arts & Business Council of Chicago is setting up field office Annexes as part of the 77 Communities Initiative, a realignment of resources to prioritize supporting art makers, cultural workers, and creative enterprises in historically marginalized communities. In alignment with our mission to help develop a diverse and equitable creative economy in Chicago, this initiative responds to a historical lack of capacity-building opportunities in the arts, cultural, and nonprofit sectors in disinvested communities. The Chicago Park District (CPD) is our partner for this program.

A&BC recognizes its origin story cannot be separated from “best management practices” rooted in white ideologies. Therefore, to become an inclusive organization, we’ve been working internally to challenge these ideologies by committing to equity-building, transparency, and accountability. These internal efforts inform how we approach this program.


  • Co-shaping professional development opportunities in collaboration with community members and building sustainable relationships with them.
  • Strengthening the organizational capacity of arts and cultural organizations through consulting, programming, and mentorship.
  • Implementing culturally responsive project management and evaluation methods; co-creating agendas, goals, communication systems, and success metrics with local arts organizations and cultural workers.
  • Providing stipends for listening sessions and all related activities.

Read more background information about the 77 Communities Initiative and Annexes in the section below.


Annexes 1.0: Community Outreach

August – October 2022

Annexes will include a community outreach phase, where A&BC staff will attend CPD’s summer and fall events to meet local creative entrepreneurs and organizations. The first three projects will take place in CPD’s Cultural Centers, including:

During these outreach campaigns, A&BC staff will:

  • Pre-assess community needs by actively asking about local members’ challenges and needs. This information will shape the content and approach of the listening sessions in phase two.
  • Collect information about community-based arts and cultural organizations as well as artists and creative entrepreneurs through a sign-up sheet and invite them to participate in our next Learning Lab so they can learn about our offerings.

Annexes 2.0: Research and Planning with community members

October 2022 – February 2023 (timeframe may vary depending on community members’ availability and time)

The second phase includes building relationships in North Lawndale, Austin, and Little Village through listening sessions and ongoing conversations. These sessions aim to find an alignment between the resources of A&BC and the community’s needs.

We will plan one to two listening sessions in all three neighborhoods with community members to find points of intersection between our resources and local arts organizations’ needs.

Annexes 3.0: Program Launch

The outcomes will depend on conversations held with community members and organizations.


The 77CI is predicated on the following research:

  • Field Foundation “Heat Maps” (2016)- outlining a study area where less than 10% of residents are Caucasian. The Fdn. found an incredible divestment of resources leading to a nexus of poverty and trauma that align with communities of color in Chicago.
  • “Point The Way” report (2017) from a coalition of Chicago capacity-building funders.
  • Chicago Park District’s (CPD) (2021) report “Reflections and Motions for an Equitable Artistic Ecosystem
  • The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in partnership with DataArts recently created a database (2022) identifying art makers who not only do not receive funding but who also have never applied.


Throughout our internal capacity-building to center racial equity within our organization beginning in 2018, and the subsequent development of the 77CI, three key factors have emerged that are critical to creating successful partnerships in order to assist Chicago’s art makers:

  1. Relationships Matter: A&BC is building relationships to establish creditability so as to be ‘invited in’ as a guest, rather than asserting any inherent right, legacy, or opinion that it has something to offer. In a dynamic sector like the arts, there are endless opportunities to establish connections through organizational growth and staff transitions. A solid relationship provides mutual opportunity for each party to benefit as roles and networks continuously expand.
  2. This work takes time. We find some people want to meet only between ‘traditional’ business hours or rush through education and tough conversations about systemic factors causing inequities and injustices; we term it “rushing to closure.” A&BC believes this is rooted in white privilege: that is, to call a beginning or end to something and to specify “outcomes”. We acknowledge racism has existed in the USA for 600 years and it might take as long to eradicate it.  We are open to adapting or jettisoning approaches/programs/services, to build upon our 38 years of experience.
  3. Accountability is key to building equity. Relative to #2 above, our new knowledge requires us to create space and take time to reflect; the 77CI, and any praxis, embodies reflection before action. A&BC’s candid consideration of its ability to RESPOND holds us ACCOUNTABLE. Understanding how nascent and start-ups operate, A&BC staff extends themselves to meet Chicago’s creatives beyond “office hours” in our communities to continually inform next steps.


A&BC is still the city’s only organization with a mission to connect the culturural and corporate communities. We are structurally designed to act as a connector and encourages private sector investment within the community. Our position at this unique intersection creates the opportunity to develop prosperous communities, focusing on Main Street, with the support and collaboration of LaSalle Street.

Due to relationships built through the 77CI, A&BC “knows someone in the community.” While the original, granular plan to create community-based Annexes was sidetracked by the COVID-19 crisis, A&BC has continued to develop its 77CI Briefs, in which we gather relevant data gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of community assets. We use this information to help our staff, board, and volunteers who are working in the community.

Allstate is proud to support A&BC for their commitment to our diverse cultural community.

Annexes are in part supported by Willis Towers Watson (WTW). WTW aligns with A&BC’s value that “diversity builds capacity.”

Community members’ stipends and hospitality fees for Annexes 2.0 are in part supported by The Chicago Community Trust.