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 civic and economic vitality and the well-being of its people and neighborhoods.

Through this program, MacArthur provides unrestricted general operating support, directly and through partners, to more than 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 Cate Fox or Program Officer Geoffrey Banks.


What MacArthur Funds

We provide multi-year, general operating support to more than 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, typically for three to five 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 Organizations Not Currently Receiving Funds:

Organizations interested in receiving funds that do not currently receive general operating support through the Culture, Equity, and the Arts portfolio (“new organizations”) will submit letters of inquiry through our grants management portal. MacArthur staff will review each new organization to determine: (a) whether it meets the $2 million annual budget threshold, (b) mission alignment with Chicago Commitment’s vision for Chicago, (c) whether it is in reasonable fiscal and organizational health, (d) how it serves the city of Chicago and the individuals who live here.

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

Renewing organizations and new 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 eight 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:  

  • Collaborative—the organization actively works with external entities to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Fosters Equity—the organization recognizes that advantages and barriers exist and strives to ensure access to opportunities and resources for historically underserved communities within its creative practice(s), program(s), and organizational structure.
  • Connective—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 grant awards will be given to organizations whose work is centered on racial equity and/or those that are focused on other traditionally under-resourced 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 approval.

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 and Prince Foundations 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 $500,000 or less

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

In reviewing proposals from arts groups, 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 accepts proposals only from companies that emphasize professional presentation instead of education or community outreach.


Support for Capacity Building

Capacity building funding complements the core operating support grants and supports 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
  • Availability and usability of space and facility management supported through the renewal of the Performing Arts Venue Fund at the League of Chicago Theatres Foundation
  • Research and information about the local arts sector


Active Programs Accepting Applications


Updated August 2019

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