Creating Our Future Communities
Ghian Forman and Maria Gaspar, external advisors to the Chicago Commitment team, reflect on their role, building community, and the creativity of imagining Chicago’s future.
Tara Magner, Director, Chicago Commitment
After serving for four years each as external advisors to the Chicago Commitment team, Ghian Foreman and Maria Gaspar will rotate out of their roles in August 2022. External advisors represent different fields and areas of experience to advise us on our strategy and implementation of our work. We invited Foreman and Gaspar to share their reflections on serving in the role of external advisors to our team.
Foreman and Gaspar were pioneers for our work with external advisors, joining the first group in 2018. Their knowledge of the arts, community economic development, and criminal justice issues informed our thinking and pushed us to consider a variety of perspectives. They also served as participatory grantmakers, recommending organizations for support through our Culture, Equity, and the Arts program. They have shared advice with us and given us honest feedback about all aspects of our work, including our areas of grantmaking, our grantmaking practices, and the ways in which we interact with members of Chicago’s many communities. We are grateful for their candor and the ways they have kept us grounded and held us accountable. We will always consider them part of our family.
Ghian Foreman, President & CEO, Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative; President of the Chicago Police Board
This role of external advisor has been a great experience for me. I have been able to get a perspective of the philanthropic world, while simultaneously sharing my perspective of working in community. Our worlds have co-dependencies and spending this time as an external advisor has made that really clear for me.
MacArthur created space for us to be heard, and over the four years I have been able to participate as an advisor, I have been able to see how our interactions have been implemented and influenced not only MacArthur but the direction of other philanthropic organizations as well.
Finally, and most important, my time as an external advisor has introduced me to some people who have paths that are completely different from mine. We have learned, laughed, and cried together. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve in this capacity and look forward to continuing to build a better Chicago.
Maria Gaspar, Interdisciplinary artist; Associate Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
As an artist, I often think about the role of intimacy when working with groups of people and the potential for transformation. To imagine, dream, and think up new ideas is in itself an act of faith. Not knowing is a process that requires trust and vulnerability — something I engage in my art practice and teaching, especially when it means collaborating with others. The experience of serving as an external advisor to the Chicago Commitment team embodied these ideas and processes for me, and it allowed me to think more expansively about how one’s contributions can be part of a larger initiative. Scale and possibility know no limits and the potential for intimacy and care can happen at any moment.
I trust the Chicago Commitment team will continue to include artists in these conversations. Pushing for improvements in Chicago and imagining the city we want to see are creative acts that require so much radical force and love. In this moment of pause, I am inspired to turn to poets, activists, and writers who work with tender language. The activist and teacher Mariame Kaba reminds us that “Hope is a discipline.” I feel her words so much right now. And in a 1977 interview on Chicago Tonight, the poet and writer Toni Morrison shared, “It’s not possible to constantly hone on the crisis. You have to have the love, and you have to have the magic. That is also life.” Thank you for the opportunity to be in dialogue with the team, to grow, and to share in the magic.