Toronto has an excellent program that helps sponsor live/work spaces for artists, offering below-market rents to assist working artists and to promote the arts in Toronto. Chicago would do well to consider programs and incentives that achieve the same results through more affordable live/work spaces.
In a program like this, artists would have to apply and be judged on the quality of their work. Various disciplines of artists could collect together in contiguous living spaces: a live/work complex for dancers, another for theater artists, one for writers, and one for visual artists. Shared spaces within these complexes could accommodate different disciplines, for example, a gallery space for visual artists, or a theater for actors or dancers.
These spaces would also serves as cultural schools for their neighborhoods, presenting theater, art shows and dance concerts, as well as offering classes taught by some of the artists who live there. Although a city administrator would oversee management of the program, at least some of the basic property upkeep – as well as governance of the spaces' policies -- could become the responsibility of resident artists.
When Sir George Solti brought the Chicago Symphony to Europe, it put everyone on notice that one of the world's great orchestras made its home in Chicago. This was a watershed event for music in Chicago, and we need to look for more opportunities like this across Chicago's arts disciplines.
The City of Chicago should establish a program that works within both the Cultural Affairs office and the Department of Tourism to plug Chicago into the world community of art. Exchanges with other countries and other U.S. cities could be achieved by working with civic leaders who have national and international connections. Cultural exchange groups, the "Sister Cities" program, or the State Department might be other avenues to establishing these relationships. The City of Chicago should also help arrange large exhibits through this program, both here and internationally.
To date, Chicago art has not received national attention; a notable recent exception was a large exhibit of Chicago art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Reviews of this exhibit were ecstatic, calling Chicago art a valid alternative vision, on par with anything from Europe or the East and West coasts. Making the international community aware of Chicago art would not only help local artists establish themselves, it would promote tourism and raise our profile as a center for the arts on the world stage.