Ryan Priester, Program Officer, Chicago Commitment, discusses our commitment to partner with communities to elevate their voices in Chicago’s civic life.

We seek to partner with communities to realize a shared vision of a more equitable Chicago. University of Chicago professor Robert Chaskin refers to this as building community capacity, leveraging existing human, organizational, and social capital to solve collective problems and improve the well-being of a community. The Chicago Commitment embraces this approach to investing in Vital Communities, which requires us to recognize various expertise, support collaboration, and align resources.

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, we were called upon to act quickly. Historical inequities that have stymied Chicago’s progress were compounded by the pandemic. Data revealed that the levels of infection and death mirrored the segregation and inequitable distribution of resources in the city. So we joined more than 30 local funders to establish the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund to support nonprofits that provide community safety nets. …

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Ric Miranda was the self-proclaimed “graffiti guy” for a Chicago gang in the 1990s.

As he matured, he took a more productive path, landing a job in 2007 as an educational outreach specialist at Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development (BUILD), which supports young people impacted by violence in Chicago through a variety of programs, including art.

Miranda viewed his work as giving back to the community. Then he discovered that art helped him address the PTSD and depression he had dealt with for several years. Art became the core of his work at BUILD.

Today, Miranda is manager of the organization’s arts academy programs, enhancing empathy on a broader scale and bridging communities. He has brought together young people from opposing street gangs to create murals and eased tensions between Black and Latinx young people from different communities by having them work on murals representing leaders from both races. …

We are pleased to share this article by Marin Williams, our summer art intern, who wrote about artwork in the MacArthur Foundation’s collection. This article, which comes on the final day of Hispanic Heritage Month, features the work of Cuban American artist and 2005 MacArthur Fellow, Teresita Fernandez.

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Teresita Fernández’s works are often large-scale immersive environments made of shimmery materials such as silk, graphite, onyx, mirrors, and glass. So, when I first saw Teresita Fernández’s Untitled drawing from 1997 in the MacArthur Foundation’s art collection I was unsure what to make of it. While the work captured a sense of minimalism and landscape that I have come to expect of Fernández’s work, I was otherwise at a complete loss. …

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