The cultural vitality of the Chicago region reflects a strong core of arts and culture organizations, large and small, that represents a diversity of disciplines, artists, neighborhoods, and citizens. To this end, MacArthur provides two complementary forms of funding. Multi-year, general operating support is provided to theaters, dance organizations, musical groups, museums, exhibitors, and visual arts organizations to develop programs that enrich audiences and the larger community, to grow artistically, and to build and sustain organizational strength. Additionally, the Foundation offers targeted, time-limited support to help strengthen specific elements of these organizations and the cultural sector as a whole.

Rationale

The arts and culture grantmaking is based on the premise that a diverse and flourishing cultural community contributes to the city of Chicago’s overall civic and economic vitality.  The Foundation provides multi-year, general operating support to more than 300 theaters, dance organizations, musical groups, museums, exhibitors, and visual arts organizations, small and large, across the region.  This support enables these 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.  

Background 

Since 1978, the Foundation has supported arts and culture in Chicago to express our civic commitment and contribute to the economy of the city and region. Since 2003, the Foundation’s arts strategy has focused on the following goals:   

  1. To support the arts and cultural infrastructure of the Chicago area through flexible, multi-year general operating support
  2. To provide funding for special, time-limited projects and initiatives that benefits a set of arts organizations or the sector as a whole
  3. To support projects that contribute to civic life in Chicago  

Over the last ten years, MacArthur has conducted this work through partnerships with two Chicago funders of the arts: the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, which make grants on MacArthur’s behalf through special funds established for that purpose. These foundations are experienced in funding small arts groups and strengthening both their artistic programs and their management. The relationship allows MacArthur to expand its support to many more small to mid-sized arts groups in a meaningful and long term manner.

Our Strategic Approach

We believe that the high level of cultural vitality in the Chicago region rests on a strong core of arts and culture organizations, large and small, that represent the diversity of artistic disciplines, artists within those disciplines, neighborhoods and citizens.  Further, research has indicated that organizations benefit from both general operating support and targeted, project-based support and that these two forms of support are mutually reinforcing.  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.  MacArthur’s grantmaking is overlaid with a robust program of meetings and events intended to keep the field informed about current national trends, provide targeted training and educational opportunities on relevant topics, and nurture the sense of community among our many artistic and cultural leaders and contributors.

Grantmaking Priorities

The arts and culture program pursues the following complementary forms of funding, distributed in partnership with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

* The majority of funding (80%) is in the form of multi-year, general operating support to over 300 arts and culture organizations in the Chicago region. The MacArthur Foundation makes grants directly to organizations with budgets above $2 million.  Grant sizes range from $50,000 to $100,000 per year (based on annual budget size) over three to five years.  Two grantmaking partners, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts, regrant MacArthur funds and provide technical assistance to institutions below the $2 million budget threshold with grants ranging from $3,000 to $40,000 annually.  

In reviewing proposals from arts groups, the Foundation and its partners consider:  

  • 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.  

* About 20 percent of the annual arts and culture budget is devoted to projects and initiatives directed to specific problems and opportunities that will address the needs of a group of organizations by artistic discipline or  function (e.g., finance, marketing, space, etc) or the arts sector as a whole (e.g., research or tools to assess impact of the arts).

Assessment

In addition to ongoing monitoring of individual grants and the sector as a whole, we plan to conduct regular evaluations of the general operating support program every 5 years to ensure that the program remains relevant and valuable in its approach to strengthening the arts sector.  In future years, evaluations will include data from the Illinois Cultural Data Project illustrating organizational development over several years.  They will also include independent research reports that show the relationship between the strength of these nonprofit cultural institutions and the cultural vitality of the Chicago region.  Further research will help us understand the connection between the strength of arts and cultural activities in the Chicago area and economic and community development, the availability of cultural and educational resources, and tourism. In addition, the Foundation will conduct regular evaluations of special time-limited programs such as the International Connections Fund, the Arts Opportunity Fund and the Arts Loan Fund programs to better document the outcomes and impact of these time-limited efforts and the potential for program improvement.