Chicago faces many challenges but our culture will never be separated from its people. 

The Chicago Model and the Land and Leadership Initiative put forth creative solutions that recognize past inequities to the arts and lack of investment to (BIPOC). This building will be a physical acknowledgement to the arts and the culture that happened here. The Chicago Model for sustainable culture combines Creative Placekeeping with Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) under the protection of a Community Land Trust.

The Chicago Model

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The Chicago Model stems from a need to preserve Heaven Gallery and LVL3 Gallery, which are assets not only to Wicker Park but also the city as a whole. Amidst gentrification, this model is emerging to protect creative space that allows it to thrive alongside commercial enterprise. The Chicago Model includes a convening of representatives from the state, the city, lenders, foundations, EA members, BIPOC leaders, corporate sponsors, and developers interested in social impact, to discuss creative financing and interagency collaboration in order to uncover permanent solutions for equity in the arts under a social justice lens. The goal is to create a cross sector multi-layered financial structure to buy and develop the building. This capital campaign will include a Direct Public Offering (DPO) an interest bearing investment tool for the community to be part of the project. 

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The Land and Leadership initiative is a feature of the Chicago Model that creates restorative space for BIPOC artists and leaders by offering affordable space, shared resources and leadership training. The center will offer art and entrepreneurial incubators to mentor new arts leaders that will train new cohorts to create thriving businesses using principles of solidarity economy. This initiative highlights the importance of access to space/land and leadership training/support. By identifying their assets to create a revenue stream to subsidize creative space and achieve economic justice.     

Creative placemaking is a process where community members, local developers, arts and culture organizations, and other stakeholders use the arts to implement community-led change. This approach aims to improve economic conditions and build capacity among residents to take ownership of their community. Equity Arts will use these strategies for placekeeping that relates to an active care of a place and its cultural fabric. This project is not just preserving an arts building but keeping the cultural memories of Wicker Park.


Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is a bottom-up strategy for sustainable, community development that uses the assets that are already in the community. The appeal of ABCD lies in the premise that communities can drive the development process themselves by identifying and mobilizing existing, but often unrecognized assets. This process creates local economic opportunities that link micro-assets to the macro-environment. Participation and empowerment are the basis of this practice.

While mostly used for affordable housing, a community land trust can also be used for culture. The CLT balances the interest of its residents, and the public to promote retention of public resources. By owning the building and operating as a not-for-profit and through deed restrictions, a CLT will protect the creative and public use of the historic arts building. Equity Arts will enter a 99 year lease with affordable rents and the center will remain a community controlled asset.