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Cultural Plan

Rockford Region Cultural Plan

The Rockford Region Cultural Plan is the result of extensive community conversations, research, and analysis of Rockford’s existing arts and culture ecosystem, as summarized in the State of Culture in Rockford report, which provides background and context for this cultural plan.

Rockford Region Cultural Plan

Final Plan and Implementation

Dear Rockford Region residents and visitors,

The Rockford Area Arts Council welcomes you to our vibrant, talented, and proud region! We encourage you to explore arts and culture through our bold public art installations, dynamic performing arts scene, unique neighborhood character, rich cultural experiences, and unconventional creative happenings.

The Arts Council is the collective voice of individual artists and regional arts organizations.  We believe in the transformative power of arts and culture and its ability to set the tone for a region’s creative and cultural infrastructure. The National League of Cities Foundation member, Jen Hughes, speaks to this transformational process, saying, “We want to help leaders see the role explicitly that arts and culture can play in weaving connections, and in imagining new ways of doing and being.”

As Hughes noted, the Arts  Council’s role in the development and implementation of the Rockford Region Cultural Plan is to help our community leaders and organizational partners imagine new ways of doing and being. The Arts Council was asked to lead the cultural plan initiative, as an integral advocate for and supporter of arts and culture in the region. The Arts Council fortified its history as a cultural convener through the cultural planning process.  Going forward, our role is to help our  community tell its story,  elevating the diverse narratives and history that make up the Rockford Region and cultivating a future that benefits all of its residents and visitors.   Additionally, the Arts Council and its partners will position the Rockford Region Cultural Plan as a data-backed framework that local lawmakers can use to support comprehensive plans for our region’s publicly funded agencies, including its school districts, the Park District, City and County governments, and regional planning agencies.

Recent regional data clearly demonstrates the prioritization of arts and culture in several other key community plans, detailed in this document. The Arts Council’s role is to keep the Cultural Plan’s dynamic resources relevant and available to those agencies prioritizing arts and culture; we will act as a push broom that ensures inclusion and alignment with what the community identifies as its priorities.


The Arts Council is grateful to its funders for their generous contributions to and enthusiasm for the Rockford Region Cultural Plan:

  • Community Foundation of Northern Illinois
  • Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • City of Rockford
  • UW Health
  • Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA)


Additional supportive community partners include the Park District, Rockford Public Schools District 205, Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence, Winnebago County, Region 1 Planning Council, Transform Rockford, and local legislators. Additionally, we assembled a diverse and intentional Project Advisory Committee to ensure we hit important community marks.

The process of this plan was as valuable as the final product because it provided an opportunity for our community to come together, build relationships, and gather inclusive and representative input from throughout the Rockford Region.

This resulting plan highlights our rich and dynamic population and creates a hard-to-resist invitation to those outside of our community to experience life in the Rockford Region.

– Mary McNamara Bernsten
Executive Director,
Rockford Area Arts Council



Planning Never Looked So Good!

Check out all the action in our photo gallery.