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, MacArthur provides 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. The MacArthur Foundation makes grants directly to organizations with budgets above $2 million. Grant sizes range from $50,000 to $75,000 per year, typically for three years. Two grantmaking partners, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts, re-grant MacArthur funds to institutions below the $2 million budget threshold, with grants ranging from $3,000 to $45,000 annually.


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 MacArthur’s 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 from arts groups, 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 dialog around timely, present-day issues.

Larger grants will be awarded to organizations whose mission is centered on Black, Lantinx, 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 two years.


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 in Chicago with annual budgets between $500,000 and $2 million. The MacArthur Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts believe a vibrant cultural and artistic life is as important to a thriving and equitable community as its economic and environmental health. The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at Prince—which emphasizes equity and inclusion—has supported mid-sized Chicago arts groups since 2003. The Fund makes grants to a variety of arts organizations, including performance, visual arts, community arts, arts service programs, and those whose primary mission is to provide arts experiences for young people.


Support for organizations with annual budgets of Up to $500,000

The MacArthur Foundation has established a special fund with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation to provide grant support for exemplary arts and cultural organizations in Chicago with annual budgets of up to $500,000. This funding helps enable groups to present creative work to Chicago audiences as well as to sustain their operations, build their capacity, take risks, and otherwise thrive.

The MacArthur Funds for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation welcomes grant requests from small to mid-size organizations of all creative disciplines. Its goal is to advance the abundance and diversity of Chicago’s cultural community. View funding guidelines and application information.


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;
  • Capacity building supported through mid-sized capacity building grants awarded through the MacArthur Fund at the Prince Charitable Trusts and 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;
  • Usability and accessibility of performing spaces through the Performing Arts Venue Fund at the  League of Chicago Theatres Foundation; and
  • Research and information about the local arts sector.


Active Programs Accepting Applications


Updated January 2021


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