Culture, Equity, and the Arts in Chicago Grant Guidelines


The Culture, Equity, and the Arts program recognizes the intrinsic value that the arts bring to the city, including developing human potential, building empathy, encouraging individual identity and empowerment, and bridging divides between communities. A diverse and flourishing cultural sector also contributes to the city’s overall vitality and the well-being of its people and neighborhoods. Arts organizations also drive significant economic activity, create jobs, and attract talent and tourism.

Through this program, we provide unrestricted general operating support, directly and through partners, to nearly 300 large and small organizations. These resources provide flexible, reliable funding that helps organizations maintain stability, plan ahead, pursue new ideas, and invest in new artistic directions. These resources also complement targeted, capacity-building programs that strengthen the sector as a whole. This robust program is a central element of a newly designed, more comprehensive and coordinated approach to leadership, grantmaking, investments, and related activities.

Questions about this grantmaking area can be addressed to Senior Program Officer Geoffrey Banks.


What MacArthur Funds

We provide multi-year, general operating support to nearly 300 arts and culture organizations in the Chicago region. We make grants directly to organizations with budgets above $2 million. Grant sizes range from $50,000 to $75,000 per year, typically for three years.


Support for Organizations With Annual Budgets of $2 Million and Above

For All Organizations Hoping to Receive Support, Including Renewal Awards:

After carefully reviewing our grantmaking guidelines, organizations interested in receiving funds, must submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) through our grants management portal. This requirement applies to organizations that are seeking renewal awards and those that do not currently receive general operating support through the Culture, Equity, and the Arts program. 

Each year, LOIs to the Culture, Equity, and the Arts program will be accepted during the months of January through April.

We provide support to organizations with a primary focus on arts and culture and to organizations that are arts-centered, meaning that art is integral to executing an organization’s mission but not the only aspect of its work. (For example, a human services organization in which arts programming is integral to its violence prevention work might be eligible.)

The LOI should clearly direct the request to the attention of the Culture, Equity, and the Arts program. The LOI should cover topics such as the organization’s mission and history and how its work aligns with our guidelines in the Culture, Equity, and the Arts program.

MacArthur staff will review each LOI and conduct due diligence to determine whether the organization: (a) meets the $2 million annual budget threshold as demonstrated by two years of audited financial statements; (b) has a mission that aligns with the Chicago Commitment's vision for Chicago; and (c) has a reasonable level of fiscal and organizational health.

Arts organizations that are affiliated with universities and are not separate nonprofits (with independent governing boards) remain ineligible. Organizations deemed eligible by staff will be invited to submit a proposal for funding.

In an effort to ensure more voices are included as part of our decision-making process, the proposals are reviewed by a participatory grantmaking panel, with five to twelve members. The panel consists of community members who reflect the city’s diversity and geography. The panel reviews and discusses proposals along with supporting information provided by MacArthur staff and others.

In reviewing proposals, MacArthur and its participatory grantmaking panel consider the following attributes:  

  • Collaboration—the organization actively works with external entities to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Commitment to Fostering Equity—the organization recognizes the existence of societal advantages and barriers and strives to ensure access to opportunities and resources for historically underserved communities within its creative practice(s), program(s), and organizational structure.
  • Connectivity—the organization uses its art and cultural practices/programming to build empathy and individual empowerment, bridge divides between people, and/or connect to other familiar or unfamiliar perspectives.
  • Relevance—the organization’s creative work and the organization itself are in dialogue around timely, present-day issues.

Larger grants will be awarded to organizations whose mission is centered on Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian voices and/or organizations that are focused on other historically underrepresented identities, such as people with disabilities and people on the LGBTQIA+ continuum.

Organizations that are recommended to receive funding will be invited to submit additional information through the online portal. Then MacArthur staff will write a recommendation and present it to the MacArthur President and Board of Directors for consideration.

Organizations that are not recommended to receive funding will be notified and presented with an opportunity to obtain feedback from MacArthur staff. Organizations that do not receive funding may apply again after three years; for example, if the organization applied in 2019, the organization may re-apply in 2022.


Support for organizations with annual budgets under $2 million

In 2003, the MacArthur Funds at the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation were established to support small and midsized arts organizations with multi-year general operating grants. Through these historic partnerships with Prince and Driehaus, MacArthur has provided a total of $65.6 million to 565 local arts and culture organizations.

In 2019, we announced a new approach called Culture, Equity, and the Arts. As our partnerships with Prince and Driehaus approached the end of five-year terms, which wind down in December 2022, we talked with both funders about their own vision for their future work.

Together with the Prince Trusts and Driehaus Foundation, we mutually and amicably agreed to not continue our funding partnership beyond 2022.

Moving forward, our vision for Culture, Equity, and the Arts will continue to include multi-year general operating support for small and midsized organizations.

We are exploring a new partnership with the goal of announcing a funding partner by Summer 2022 to make grants starting in Spring 2023.

To learn more about this transition, we encourage you to read “Building a More Equitable Arts Ecosystem from the Ground Up.” 

The Driehaus Foundation and Prince Charitable Trusts posted announcements on their own websites with additional information specific to current grantees and potential applicants. You can find that information below:

Driehaus Foundation announcement › 

Prince Charitable Trusts announcement › 


Support for Capacity Building

Capacity building funding complements the unrestricted general operating support grants and is directed to 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 funding in the arts include the following:

  • International cultural exchange and collaboration supported through the International Connections Fund;
  • Professional development grants awarded through the MacArthur Fund at the Driehaus Foundation;
  • Access to capital and cash flow management in performing arts organizations supported through the Arts & Culture Loan Fund; and
  • Research and information about the local arts sector.


Active Programs Accepting Applications

  • Culture, Equity, and the Arts for arts and arts-centered organizations with budgets of $2 million and above submit letters of inquiry through our grants management portal.
  • Arts & Culture Loan Fund for MacArthur arts grantees with budgets between $250,000 and $5 million.
  • Professional Development Fund for existing MacArthur-Driehaus grantees with budgets under $500,000 (The Driehaus Foundation). 


Updated February 2022


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