What is the Chicago Arts Census?
The Chicago Arts Census is the first comprehensive, cross-discipline data collection effort in the city created by and with the art workers of Chicago.
The Census is built to amplify our voices as art workers in Chicago, serve as an advocacy tool fighting for better working, living, and making conditions, and create opportunities for coalition-building across art sectors.
It does so by collecting, mapping, and visualizing data sets identified by and with art workers to better illuminate the precarity of our living and working conditions. At present, a complex and intersectional account of our labor does not exist. The collected data will be translated into a series of maps, a website, a publication, and public programs that demonstrate the interwoven and dependent relationships that make up Chicago’s art ecosystem. Read Our FAQ here.
What are the project outcomes?
To collect and unify legible data identified and determined by the art workers of Chicago so that we can use the information to name, support, and defend healthier labor practices in the city’s various arts and cultural institutions for ourselves and our peers.
To create an expanded definition of art workers to acknowledge and hold the labor of our visible and invisible work. This includes, but by no means excludes other possibilities, those that define themselves as artist, arts writer, art handler, educator, fabricator, custodian, preparator, intern, docent, administrator, security guard, designer, and/or curator.
As funding institutions, both public and private, look to redistribute resources across geography, media, and demographics, we want the data collected by the Census to guide and recalibrate these funding streams toward the livelihoods of art workers in Chicago, specifically to create more opportunities to support collaborative and community-based projects.
Why should I participate?
As art workers, we live and work in a state of precarity. We are underpaid, juggling multiple jobs, without healthcare, navigating unemployment, moving every year. We are tired. We feel the strain and scarcity of resources in our everyday lives, and yet what we feel and what we need is continually unreconciled.
The Chicago Arts Census wants that to change, and we can’t do it without you.
We want to collect the voices and lived experiences of our peers because a complex and intersectional account of our labor does not exist. Our working livelihoods are a missing dataset. We understand that data is insufficient on its own. But data combined with context, maps, and stories turns into information and knowledge. Information and knowledge shared, discussed, and critiqued by a community transforms into wisdom.
There are always organizations that want to collect our data—to represent us in numerical form. Are they talking to us? Do they know who we are and what matters to our livelihoods? Do they even acknowledge us? Data is often used to flatten us by not working with us. At worst, data is used to “promote and perpetuate inequality, injustice, violence, wars, capitalism, structural racism” (Laura Poitras, Diagrams of Power).
So, what happens when WE ask the questions? When we—artists, musicians, writers, designers, actors, handlers, educators, fabricators, dancers, custodians, preparators, interns, docents, administrators, security guards, and curators—mobilize the potential of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom?
We must name, demand, and amplify better living and working conditions for ourselves and our peers. The Chicago Arts Census is a tool for us to do so.
Together we are louder, together we are demanding: Fair wages and benefits, healthy working conditions, job security. Together we can change the way our work, needs, and labor are talked about and supported.
When can I take the Census?
The Census and its supporting materials will be available on web and mobile platforms, as well as in printed form, across the city of Chicago for those without Internet access. The Census opens in October 2021 and closes in late Winter 2021. The Census intends to survey art workers across Chicago’s 77 community areas with a dedicated effort to thoughtfully engage the West and South Sides of Chicago.
A detailed report of the findings and recommendations will be available for public conversation in Winter 2022.
How is the Census Made Collaboratively?
The Census is made by and with the art workers of Chicago.
The project is necessarily co-authored in community with art workers who it serves, because without our distributed voices and perspectives, the collected information would continue to misrepresent how our needs are intertwined with the way public and private sectors understand our labor.
As part of this initiative, the Census depends on the participation of several Census Committees made up of art workers who represent a breadth of communities, disciplines, organizational affiliations, and zip codes who are integral to the creation, dissemination, and evaluation of the Census. The Census will not speak on behalf of but rather with and from the lived experiences of these communities.
The Census Committees create the space in which data, information, knowledge, and wisdom collide—where the lived experiences of art workers from all different sectors, zip codes, and backgrounds can give life and shape to a tool that hopes to serve their larger communities.
There are five Census Committees: Research + Census Building, Census Consultants, Community Outreach, Community Liaisons, and the Census Peer Review. For more about the Census Committees, read here.
Additionally, the Census is made with the knowledge and expertise of DataMade, a data and web consultancy that supports projects working toward democracy and equity. DataMade will offer research and discovery, strategic consulting, process improvement, visualizations, building and maintaining data management tools and APIs, and performing data analysis and modeling.
Who organized the Census?
The Chicago Arts Census is a collaboration between ACRE and Annas and generously funded by the Walder Foundation and the ArtWorks Fund. We work in partnership with DataMade, C.A.M.P., Sixty Inches From Center, and you!
Interested in participating?
Our Feedback + Inquiries Form is for you to leave a note, provide feedback, ask a question, or tell us about something in the text. This form can be filled out anonymously, or you can share your information so we might be in conversation with you. Collected information helps shape our mission, FAQ, and project methodology.
Have more questions on our process and our approach to equity, accessibility, and data privacy? Refer to our F.A.Q. for more details on the Chicago Arts Census.
About ACRE and Annas
ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) is an artist-run non-profit devoted to providing resources to emerging artists and nurturing an expansive community of art workers. ACRE’s programs support this generative community with materials, equipment, expertise, conscientiously produced food, and opportunities to exhibit and share work.
ACRE’s annual summer residency in rural Wisconsin brings together emerging artists to live and work in a communal setting. A corresponding year-long program of exhibitions and events based in Chicago creates ongoing opportunities for idea exchange, feedback, and growth. As a community-coordinated effort to provide emerging artists with an accessible, equitable, and interdisciplinary residency and exhibitions program, ACRE has welcomed over 1,000 visual artists, sound artists, musicians, performance artists, writers, curators, scientists, chefs, and others to its Wisconsin and Illinois communities.
The Census serves ACRE's mission of advancing new means of support for artists through socially engaged, community-centered programs and initiatives.
Annas is a multi-functional platform dedicated to collaborative making, process-based work, care in administrative practices, and creative sustainability.
Our active rotation is responsive and unfolding, with a yearly residency program, collaborative exhibitions, performances, gatherings, and teachings, hosted in-person and virtually. As Annas grows, it positions itself as a space that centers care in our administration practices to support the sustained, collaborative opportunities for emergent and established arts workers throughout Chicago and beyond.
These four core values necessarily determined Annas as a collective, method, and site. As a collective, Annas is a community of arts workers dedicated to supporting and sustaining the role of process, care, and collaboration in the visual arts. As method, Annas believes (1) collaboration expands supportive and reciprocal possibility for individuals and institutions (2) creating equitable art spaces means shifting structural foundations by defining and formalizing methods of care into its administration, and (3) that expertise is experiential and abundant within the Chicago arts community. As site, Annas is malleable and built to transform to the needs of its cohorts and community.