WIN: Illinois Designates 10 Cultural Districts and $3 Million in Funding

“Ten state-designated cultural districts in Illinois were recently announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, including Little Village and ‘Puerto Rico Town’ in Humboldt Park.

“The program was launched in 2023 with an aim to uplift and preserve cultural communities throughout Illinois. The districts are eligible to apply for some of the $3 million in available funding to help stimulate economic development in those areas.

“José López, a longtime organizer with the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park and executive director at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, has been working with legislators for nearly a decade to designate ‘Puerto Rico Town’ as a recognized cultural community.

“‘We were facing the twin problems of historical disinvestment and gentrification,” López said. ‘And we convened a community summit about seven, eight years ago, and we came up with this idea: If the state legislators can designate areas, why not designate an area as a cultural designated district and make culture, and look at culture as an enterprise? Not as something that is a sidekick, but something that is central to the vitality of the community, the city and hopefully, the world.’

“Kim Close founded the Foundation of Little Village in 2018 with a mission to deliver business services in Spanish to the community of entrepreneurs that are investing in and around the area, and said the cultural district designation will help restore the historical significance of the community.

“‘Little Village is extremely important to the history of the City of Chicago,’ Close said. ‘It has always been a community of immigrants, and even to this day, it’s a point of entry for people coming into the United States. Not only does it have historical significance, but in terms of the economic impact that 26th Street has on the city and the state of Illinois … It’s a beautiful place to visit and it definitely deserves this cultural district designation.’

“Five other city cultural districts were designated for 2023 and 2024 that include Bronzeville, Chinatown, Clark Street/Camino Clark in Rogers Park, Mahalia Jackson 79th Street in Chatham and South Chicago. The three other districts include the Central East Cultural and Southtown cultural districts in Springfield and the North First Street Cultural District in Champaign. An additional five recipients will be named in 2025.” (Keenehan, WTTW Chicago, 3/8/24)

Watch the full story at WTTW Chicago


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