The Great Chicago Fire Festival

Redmoon Theater

Funding Received: 2013
Chicago, IL
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 4, 2013


The inaugural Redmoon Great Chicago Fire Festival (GCFF) introduces an annual event tradition that will celebrate the diversity of Chicago's great neighborhoods and the city’s powerful spirit of renewal. The festival will activate 15 Chicago neighborhoods through in-depth, multi-layered community residencies in the months leading up to the festival. The community residencies will be led and driven by an established organization within the neighborhood – from social service centers, to neighborhood arts organization, to local public schools– these groups will be the primary facilitator of the residency’s events in their neighborhood.

Redmoon’s current progress and activities on GCFF have centered on the neighborhood residencies—creating neighborhood selection criteria with the city and codifying Redmoon’s collaborative process. Redmoon is known for its collaborative process that brings together community leaders, diverse groups of participants, artists, and non-artist experts from a variety of disciplines in the creation of interactive, spontaneous, urban Spectacle. However, our expertise in collaboration sits as an heirloom within the core staff and has never been formalized as a protocol.

Last month, through an Innovation Lab grant from EmcArts, Redmoon brought together an innovation team with representatives from Chicago Park District, Cure Violence (formerly CeaseFire), Family Focus Lawndale, and Harvard. Together this team developed a prototype, The Forge, the articulation of the collaborative process model by which Redmoon builds relationships with community partners and a protocol to engage them as core collaborators. This team will test The Forge prototype with neighborhoods over the next several months as the standard for building healthy reciprocal relationships with our GCFF neighborhood partners.

Recent Wins

1-Our innovation team partners did not know one another prior to our week-long EmcArts retreat. The time together building relationships and working on GCFF instigated new dialog and connections between cross sector organizations—with benefits beyond the GCFF that will impact the community.

2- We began to decipher and make concrete the previously ineffable process that we follow when creating partnerships with outside organizations, and thus create a process that can be reflected upon, refined, and, ultimately, shared with others.

3- The innovation team did hard work, looking at the collaborative process squarely in the eye, overtly considering the difficult questions often overlooked in a collaborative process: power disparities, race, cultural distinctions, and other sticky issues were directly addressed.


How might multi-layered relationship building leverage the creative potential already present in a place? Will a citywide project offer a platform to celebrate neighborhood cultural assets increases the value in a community and relationships within it? How can you track that social impact?