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Arts & Culture in Chicago

Our Goal

Based on the premise that cultural vitality in the Chicago region requires strong arts organizations, 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.

Why We Support This Work

MacArthur provides unrestricted general operating support—directly and through partners—to more than 300 large and small organizations. MacArthur also supports targeted, capacity building programs that strengthen the creative sector.

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. Research indicates that organizations benefit from both general operating and capacity building support, and that these two forms of support are mutually reinforcing. The general support provides flexible, stable funding so organizations can plan ahead and invest in new artistic directions. The targeted, capacity building support strengthens elements of these organizations and the sector as a whole.

General Operating Support

The majority of funding (90 percent) is in the form of 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 $52,500 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, re-grant MacArthur funds to institutions below the $2 million budget threshold, with grants ranging from $3,000 to $45,000 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
  • Community and educational outreach activities

Capacity Building Support

About 10 percent of the annual arts and culture budget is devoted to investing in initiatives designed to strengthen financial management, facilities management, and artistic practice.
These initiatives include:

  • International Connections Fund, which supports exchanges that encourage greater sharing of experience and international learning between arts and culture organizations in Chicago and in countries around the world.
  • Arts and Culture Loan Fund, which provides small- and medium-sized arts and culture organizations with loans to address cash flow shortages and strengthen the financial capacity of its borrowers.
  • Performing Arts Venue Fund, which assists small and mid-sized arts organizations make necessary upgrades to their facilities to ensure that the spaces are safe, accessible, and properly licensed.

Expected Outcomes

We expect arts and culture programming to result in:

  • A vibrant cultural life for the city;
  • Stronger, more effective, and stable arts and culture organizations;
  • Greater flexibility for arts and culture nonprofits to innovate and experiment;
  • Exceptional and challenging performances, exhibits, and experiences; and
  • Amplified voices of those who are often unheard.

Funding 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 (90%) is in the form of multi-year, core 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 $52,500 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 to institutions below the $2 million budget threshold with grants ranging from $3,000 to $45,000 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
  • Community and educational outreach activities

* About 10 percent of the annual arts and culture budget is devoted to investing in initiatives designed to strengthen financial management, facilities management, and artistic practice.

These initiatives include the International Connections Fund, which supports exchanges that encourage greater sharing of experience and international learning between arts and culture organizations in Chicago and in countries around the world; and the Arts and Culture Loan Fund, which provides small- and medium-sized arts and culture organizations with loans to address cash flow shortages and strengthen the financial capacity of its borrowers; and the Performing Arts Venue Fund, which assists small and mid-sized arts organizations make necessary upgrades to their facilities to ensure that the spaces are safe, accessible, and properly licensed.

Measurement and Evaluation for Learning

The Chicago Commitment is in the process of engaging an evaluation and learning partner to measure and evaluate the progress of our strategy, test assumptions underpinning it, and collect information about the context in which the strategy operates. The focus of these activities is on learning. We aim to understand how the strategy contributes to a Chicago that is more equitable and where justice can thrive. Findings and analysis from evaluation activities will be published as they become available.

Evaluations for the Arts & Culture Loan Fund Program and General Operating Support to Arts Organizations can be found below.

 


Updated July 2018

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