Arts & Culture in Chicago Grant Guidelines

Understand guideline and funding cycles

MacArthur publishes program guidelines to help applicants determine whether their idea for a grant fits within a particular grantmaking strategy.

As a general rule, applicants should base this decision on three related criteria that appear in program guidelines: the topical focus addressed by the grantmaking strategy; the geographic area covered by the grantmaking strategy; and, finally, the type of funding (i.e., general operating support, research, program support, etc.) that supports the grantmaking strategy.

Like most strategic grantmaking foundations, MacArthur considers funding only those applications that closely match the topical, geographic, and funding criteria for a specific grantmaking strategy.

Overview

The MacArthur Foundation supports arts and culture in Chicago because it believes that a diverse and flourishing cultural community contributes to the city’s overall civic and economic vitality and the well-being of its people and neighborhoods.  The Foundation supports more than 200 theaters, dance organizations, musical groups, museums, exhibitors, and visual arts organizations, small and large, across the region. Its combination of multi-year operating support and grants targeted to special needs of the cultural community enables arts organizations to develop programs that enrich their audiences and the larger community, to grow artistically, and to build and sustain their organizational strength.  This, in turn, strengthens communities, creates jobs, attracts tourism, and provides cultural and educational resources for the city.  

Questions about this grantmaking area can be addressed to Elspeth Revere, Vice President, Media, Culture and Special Initiatives.

What MacArthur Funds

MacArthur makes multi-year general operating support grants to a set of organizations in the Chicago region in order to support a high level of cultural vitality.  These organizations represent the diversity of artistic disciplines, artists within those disciplines, neighborhoods and citizens.  The Foundation also makes targeted, project-based support grants that address opportunities or needs faced by many arts organizations.  The general support provides flexible, stable funding so that organizations can plan ahead and invest in new artistic directions, while the targeted, time limited support strengthens elements of these organizations and the sector as a whole. 

General Operating Support

The Foundation makes general operating support grants to arts organizations directly and through partnerships with the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Driehaus Foundation.  Organizations apply to one of these three Foundations based on the operating budget of each organization.

Support for organizations with annual budgets of $2 million or more
Inquiries from organizations in the Chicago region with annual budgets of $2 million or more are welcome and should be sent directly to the MacArthur Foundation. The format for such letters can be found in the Letter of Inquiry page.

In reviewing proposals from arts groups, the MacArthur Foundation considers:

  • quality of the organization’s artistic program;
  • strength of its board and staff leadership;
  • impact on the organization’s neighborhood, the city or the region;
  • sizes and types of audiences served; and
  • community and educational outreach activities.

Support for organizations with annual budgets between $500,000 and $2 million
The MacArthur Foundation has established a special fund with the Prince Charitable Trusts of Chicago to provide grant support for arts and cultural organizations with annual budgets between $500,000 and $2 million. Information about applying for grants for organizations with annual budgets between $500,000 and $2 million is here.

In reviewing proposals from arts groups, the Prince Charitable Trusts considers:

  • quality of the organization’s artistic program;
  • strength of its board and staff leadership;
  • impact on the organization’s neighborhood, the city or the region;
  • sizes and types of audiences served; and
  • community and educational outreach activities.

Support for organizations with annual budgets of $500,000 or less
The MacArthur Foundation has established a special fund with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation of Chicago to provide grant support for arts and cultural organizations with annual budgets of $500,000 or less. Information about grants for organizations with annual budgets of $500,000 or less per year is available here.

In reviewing proposals from arts groups, the Small Theatre and Dance program at Driehaus considers proposals that address the needs of small professional companies.  The goal is to encourage and advance the richness and variety - aesthetic, stylistic, thematic, geographical, and cultural – in Chicago's vibrant fields of dance and theater.  To that end, Driehaus accept proposals only from companies that emphasize professional presentation instead of education or community outreach.

Support for Special Opportunities
In the last several years, the Special Opportunities funding has evolved to complement the general operating support grants and support the Chicago-area arts and culture sector as a whole.  The purpose of any projects supported by these grants is to strengthen the local arts sector in the Chicago area and to sustain and improve their contributions to cultural life in the city.  Current and recent examples of Special Initiative Funding in the arts include the following:

  • International cultural exchange and collaboration supported through the International Connections Fund
  • Capacity building supported through mid-sized Capacity Building grants awarded through the MacArthur Fund at the Prince Charitable Trusts; the Professional Development fund at the Driehaus Foundation; and the Promotional Support fund also at the Driehaus Foundation.
  • Access to capital and cash flow management in performing arts organizations supported through the Arts Loan Fund.
  • Availability and usability of space supported through the renewal of the Performing Area Venue License Fund at the Driehaus Foundation and one-time grants to address special opportunities like the one to Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s shared space for small rhythmic dance companies in Chicago. 
  • Research and information about the local arts sector.  
  • Discipline-specific support, for example,through support of Audience Architects and the Chicago Dancemakers Forum (dance) and the annual Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Jazz Partnership.
  • Knowledge and organizational development supported through a regular speaker series bringing national experts to Chicago, and the EmcArts New Pathways in the Arts program to supportive adaptive thinking among nonprofit arts managers and artistic leaders.

If you have a particular project idea that would be sector strengthening as described above, please submit a letter of inquiry to MacArthur directly. The format for such letters can be found in the Letter of Inquiry page.
 

Active programs accepting applications:
Past programs no longer accepting applications:
  • Capacity building grants for grantees of the MacArthur Fund at the Prince Charitable Trusts