As the city prepares for a welcome return to a full season of in-person festivals, parades, concerts and more, new Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Erin Harkey gives us the scoop on the excitement to come.
New DCASE commissioner Erin Harkey’s first major mission? Overseeing the return of a big-time cultural event season to the city after two comparatively quiet years.
So far, Erin Harkey has impeccable timing: The new commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) steps into her role at the most exciting of times, when Chicagoans and visitors are finally getting back to enjoying all the cultural happenings the city is known for. With events ranging from the Blues Festival to the Air and Water Show, Taste of Chicago and more all on tap, we sat down with Harkey to get her take on the upcoming season.
What does reopening mean for the city? Revitalizing our city’s arts and culture scene is essential to our post-pandemic recovery, and the arts must be at the center of bringing Chicago back, in all 77 neighborhoods. Mayor Lori Lightfoot recognizes the important role artists and cultural organizations play in Chicago’s economic recovery and bolstering the quality of life in our city; she truly is our #ArtsMayor.
What have you missed most about the city’s cultural scene? I’ve missed seeing live performances, especially dance. Chicago is a hub for arts and culture and boasts a thriving dance community—home to some of the premier contemporary and ballet companies in the U.S. today. So, Mayor Lightfoot and DCASE have designated 2022 as the #YearofChicagoDance to address critical issues facing dancers and the field of dance, and to offer dance performances, social dancing and special events for the public in venues across the city.
What does reopening mean for you? It’s been heartening to see our staff come back to the office—and Chicagoans and visitors returning to Millennium Park and other cultural spaces across our city. In fact, we recently announced the reopening of the Chicago Cultural Center’s Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) rooms and their magnificent art glass dome following a yearlong restoration—which, along with a full slate of arts exhibitions and more, also celebrates the landmark building’s 125th birthday.
Any upcoming events that you’re most excited about? Mainly all-virtual in 2020 due to COVID-19 and reimagined in 2021, most of the City of Chicago’s beloved summertime traditions will be in-person in 2022—including the Chicago Blues Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago SummerDance and neighborhood festivals, special events, markets and more throughout Chicago. And our popular Taste of Chicago community popups will return, while also popping up in Grant Park for a new, bite-size version of the classic lakefront extravaganza. chicago.gov/dcase
Photography by: PATRICK PYSZKA/CITY OF CHICAGO