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Nick Rabkin

Research Fellow

Nick Rabkin is an arts consultant, planner, and researcher based in Chicago. His work focuses on arts education, cultural philanthropy and policy, and arts innovation, bringing rigorous analysis and broad perspective to questions about how the arts serve the public good and enrich individual lives.

Nick was a member of the consulting team that developed Chicago’s new cultural plan in 2012 for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. As a research fellow at Slover Linett, he has conducted program reviews for arts funders such as The James Irvine Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation and impact research studies for individual cultural and educational organizations. His co-authored report for the Irvine Foundation, A Laboratory for Relevance: Findings from the Arts Innovation Fund, was released in 2012.

Nick is also an Associate of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago. His multi-year national study, Teaching Artists and the Future of Education, was published by NORC at the University of Chicago in 2011. He also wrote a monograph on arts participation and declining rates of arts education in our schools, commissioned by the NEA in 2010.

Nick has a long history of advocacy and research in arts education, including the 1999 report, Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning (from the Arts Education Partnership) and his own book, Putting the Arts in the Picture: Reframing Education in the 21st Century (Columbia College Chicago Press, 2004). He served as executive director of the Center for Arts Policy at Columbia College Chicago at the time of their landmark study on the roles of the ‘informal’ arts in building social capital and contributing to the viability of communities.

Nick began his career as a legislative aide to a Chicago alderman, then served as the executive director of Organic Theater, a pioneering Chicago theater company, where he produced original plays for three years. He was Chicago’s deputy commissioner of cultural affairs from 1984 to 1991, helping to shape the new department’s orientation toward equitable public support for the arts and balanced cultural development.

Nick also served as senior program officer for the arts and culture at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation where he diversified the arts portfolio, linked the arts to community development, expanded support for arts education, and worked to improve cultural boards, arts marketing, and capital investment in the arts.


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March 14, 2014 | Nicole Baltazar

Multiculturalism is key for creating inclusive arts experiences


Last month, Coca-Cola aired its now-famous Super Bowl ad depicting people from various racial, ethnic, and cultural groups singing “America the Beautiful” together in different languages. Among the instant outpouring of polarized reactions to this ad rang much praise for its depiction of a multicultural America. Yet the ad provoked a slew of negative responses as well. Many of the ad’s detractors questioned whether this multicultural America could ever feel as cohesive as an America whose citizens speak a common language, and therefore have taken great strides toward assimilating into a common culture.

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