The Chicago South Asian Arts Council, Inc. was formed for exclusively educational, social, literary and charitable purposes. Specifically, the Chicago South Asian Arts Council (CSAAC) promotes South Asian culture throughout Chicago and the Midwest through regular cultural events and programs that primarily include film festival and artistic performances in theater, dance, music, poetry, and literature.

Organization History

In 2010, founders Amit Rana, Ketki Parikh, and Mileen Patel in collaboration with the Network of Indian Professionals hosted the first annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival. Initially geared as a community event to promote local films, the festival exceeded all expectations by drawing over 1300 audience members over three days and hosted acclaimed artists from around the world such as Director/Actor Aparna Sen, Evanston native Ajay Naidu, and actor Deepti Naval. Based on the success, the founders incorporated the nonprofit organization Chicago South Asian Arts Council in 2010 with the mission to not only promote South Asian visual arts but also other art forms from the South Asian subcontinent. Over the years the organization has promoted its mission and empowered individuals to promote positive changes by providing platform for discussion to groups such as Apna Ghar (domestic violence shelter) and Trikone (LGBT group) and has also inspired individuals to host local film clubs in their homes and local communities and promote the amazing stories and causes seen at the Festival. The Organization has collaborated with various local institutes and organizations over the years including Columbia College Chicago, Chicago Foundation for Women, Field Museum, Evanston Public Library, Chicago Cultural Center, and Chicago Sister Cities International. In particular, the festival screened films at Chicago Cultural Center and Evanston Public Library with free admission to the general public. Finally, the organization has also partnered with organization such as Rasaka Theater to bring acclaimed South Asian plays such as the “Wedding Album” by Girish Karnad. The Chicago South Asian Arts Council’s continues to grow and evolve with a strong focus on its vision to be the premiere South Asian organization in the Midwest and a cultivator of local artists and artwork.

High Quality Programming

The primary program organized by the Chicago South Asian Arts Council is the highly successful Chicago South Asian Film Festival. The four day festival held in late September promotes films that represent South Asian perspectives and includes a stellar selection of films and guests, panel discussions, opportunities for filmmakers and film lovers to connect, musical performances, tributes to major artists, and gala’s. South Asians are the largest growing ethnic group in America, particularly Chicagoland, and the organization is committed to providing a groundbreaking cinematic experience for filmmakers and moviegoers alike with the warmth and personal touch that is unique to Chicago. The festival attracts over two thousand people, and typically showcases 24-30 films from countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, UK, Canada, and the United States.

“The Festival creates an innovative cultural and cinematic experience for Chicagoans and visitors alike. Through the gift of film, the Chicago South Asian Film Festival invites all to share and enjoy the magic of cinema and true cultural exchange. The City is proud to host this extraordinary partnership between the South Asian community and the arts and entertainment industry.”

– Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Cultural Plan

The organization aligns  with the following recommendations and initiatives set forth by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Michelle Boone (Commissioner of Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events) in the Chicago Cultural Plan:
  • Recommendation 19 (strengthen all cultural organizations): We provide audiences an opportunity to explore South Asian cultural arts and experiences. South Asian arts is highly underrepresented in Chicago and our organization provides a platform for South Asian artists to showcase their work.
  • Recommendation 20 (encourage cultural and non-cultural sectors to work together): Our organization partners with several colleges including Columbia, University of Chicago, DePaul and Northwestern for programming. For example, we partnered with Block Museum’s winter exhibit on Buddhist arts from Kashmir. Additionally we routinely collaborate with various other organizations such as Chicago Foundation for Women, DCASE, Gene Siskel Film Center, and other local organizations on film screenings, theatrical plays, and other exhibitions.
  • Recommendation 31 (Leverage the power of culture to bring new ideas to all sectors of the city): Our organization is part of Seed Chicago Kickstarter program that highlights small businesses and community development projects that will grow jobs, facilitate economic activity, revitalize communities or promote education and training.