Culture, Equity, and the Arts in Chicago

Reflecting diverse creative sector voices and sustaining the creative life of the city


Why We Support This Work

In 2019, we announced a new approach to arts and culture grantmaking in the city of Chicago. The reimagined program, called Culture, Equity, and the Arts, is informed by conversations with leaders from arts organizations, artists, and creatives in nonprofit and for-profit spaces, and arts advocates and administrators. It is also shaped by MacArthur’s participation in Enrich Chicago and a Foundation-wide effort to reflect on how our decisions and actions enhance the conditions in which justice can thrive.

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 may not be the organization’s primary goal. Larger-sized grants are awarded to organizations whose mission is centered on Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian voices and/or organizations that are focused on other historically marginalized identities, such as people with disabilities and people on the LGBTQIA+ continuum.

In an effort to ensure more voices are included as part of our decision-making process, the applications are reviewed by a participatory grantmaking panel with eight to twelve members. The panel consists of community members who reflect the city’s diversity and geography. Ultimately, the panel recommends a slate of grantees and award amounts to MacArthur’s President and Board of Directors, which retain their approval authority.

Our 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 residents. Through this program, MacArthur provides unrestricted general operating support, directly and through partners, to 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.


General Operating Support

Funding is in the form of multi-year, general operating support to Chicago-based arts and culture organizations. We make grants directly to organizations with budgets above $1 million. Grant sizes range from $50,000 to $75,000 per year, typically for three years.

Our vision for Culture, Equity, and the Arts includes multi-year general operating support for small and mid-sized organizations through a regranting partnership with the Field Foundation. This partnership is called A Road Together (ART), an initiative of the Field Foundation supported by the MacArthur Foundation, and is designed for organizations with a strong commitment to equity that is reflective and inclusive of Chicago’s diverse and historically underserved communities. While the MacArthur Foundation makes grants directly to organizations with budgets of $1 million and above, our grantmaking partner, the Field Foundation, regrants MacArthur funds to organizations with budgets up to $1 million to offer multi-year general operating grants through a participatory grantmaking process. Field will also offer single-year general operating grants outside of the participatory process.

View Culture, Equity, and the Arts grant guidelines ›


Measurement and Evaluation for Learning

Evaluation of our work is a critical tool for informing our decision-making, leading to better results and more effective stewardship of resources. We develop customized evaluation designs for each of our programs based on the context, problem, opportunity, and approach to the work. Evaluation is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process of collecting feedback and using that information to support our grantees and adjust our strategy.

We aim to understand how the strategy contributes to a Chicago that is more equitable and where justice can thrive. Evaluations for the Arts & Culture Loan Fund Program and for the International Connections Fund have been completed.

Findings and analyses from evaluation activities are published as they become available.


Additional Areas of Work

Advancing Leadership ›
Civic Partnerships ›
Vital Communities ›

Chicago Commitment strategy ›


Updated April 2023

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