Culture, Equity, and the Arts Grant Guidelines


The Culture, Equity, and the Arts (CEA) program is based on the ideal that arts and culture are essential to furthering the Chicago Commitment’s goal: To invest in people, places, and partnerships to advance racial equity and build a more inclusive Chicago.

The arts help to introduce people to diverse perspectives, build bridges across social boundary lines, expose people to culturally relevant experiences, and develop human empathy.

Through this program, we offer unrestricted general operating support, directly and through regranting partners, to large, mid-sized, 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.

Contact us for questions about this grantmaking.

What MacArthur Funds

We offer multi-year, general operating support directly to organizations with budgets above $1 million. Grant sizes range from $55,000 to $80,000 per year, typically for three years.

Support for Organizations with Annual Budgets of $1 Million and Above

All Organizations Hoping to Receive Support, Including Renewal Awards

Funding in the Culture, Equity, and the Arts program to Chicago-based organizations is in the form of general operating support.

Funding in the Culture, Equity, and the Arts program to Chicago-based organizations is in the form of general operating support.

After carefully reviewing our grantmaking guidelines, all organizations interested in applying, must Submit a Letter of Inquiry. 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 are accepted between February 1 and March 31.

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


Staff review each LOI to determine whether the organization:

  • Has an annual operating budget of $1 million or greater as demonstrated by two consecutive final, independently audited financial statements indicating both revenues and expenses of $1 million or above;
  • Has a mission that aligns with the Chicago Commitment's vision;
  • Is a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service in good standing with the IRS and the Illinois Secretary of State; and
  • Has a reasonable level of fiscal and organizational health.

We offer 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 may be eligible.

Organizations that are closely affiliated with larger institutions, such as universities and schools; receive significant financial or in-kind support from the larger institution; and are not independent nonprofits with self-governing boards and independent audits, are not eligible.

Geographic Boundaries

The CEA program prioritizes proposals from organizations that are located within the city of Chicago and whose core mission is to serve Chicago audiences. We will, on occasion, consider requests from organizations in the suburbs if the applicant can make a compelling case that their organization reaches underserved audiences within the city of Chicago to a substantial degree.

Organizations that are invited to submit a full proposal will continue the process described below.  

To learn more, download the FAQ.

Participatory Grantmaking

In an effort to ensure that more voices are included as part of the decision-making process, proposals are reviewed by a participatory grantmaking panel comprising eight to twelve members. Participatory grantmakers are Chicago-area residents who represent a wide diversity of demographic backgrounds, life experiences, areas of expertise, and careers in sectors such as the arts, media and journalism, community economic development, and nonprofit leadership.

In reviewing proposals, participatory grantmakers consider the following attributes:

  • Demonstrated Commitment to Fostering Equity – the organization demonstrates results of efforts to provide access, opportunities, and resources for historically marginalized communities.
  • Collaboration – the organization actively works with external partners to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Connectivity – the organization uses its art and cultural practices/programming to inspire empathy and encourage individual empowerment, bridge divides between people and communities, and/or connect to other familiar or unfamiliar perspectives.
  • Relevance – the organization’s creative work illuminates contemporary social inequities.

Larger grants are awarded to organizations whose mission is centered on historically underrepresented identities, including people with disabilities and people on the LGBTQIA+ continuum; where the demographics of staff and board are representative of the city of Chicago; and where metrics are in place to measure progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.

Organizations that are recommended by the panel of participatory grantmakers will be invited to submit additional information for due diligence purposes. MacArthur Staff then write a recommendation for consideration by the President and Board of Directors.

Organizations that are not recommended by the panel of participatory grantmakers are notified and presented with an opportunity to obtain feedback from Staff. Organizations that are not recommended for funding may apply again after three years.

To learn more, we encourage you to read:

Support for Organizations with Annual Budgets Up to $1 Million

The MacArthur Foundation established a regranting partnership with the Field Foundation in 2023 to offer general operating support to arts and cultural organizations in Chicago with annual budgets up to $1 million. This partnership—A Road Together (ART), an initiative of the Field Foundation supported by the MacArthur Foundation—is designed specifically for organizations with a strong commitment to equity that is reflective and inclusive of Chicago’s diverse and historically underserved communities. Using MacArthur funds, Field offers general operating support to small and mid-sized arts and culture organizations that align with its mission to center racial equity and achieve community empowerment. Through this partnership, we aim to see a more equitable distribution of MacArthur’s Chicago Commitment resources across the city’s geographies and populations, and greater diversity in the organizations that MacArthur supports overall.

View ART funding guidelines and application information. For questions about the ART program, contact the Field Foundation.

Arts & Culture Loan Fund

General operating support is complemented by capacity building opportunities that strengthen the arts and culture sector and help sustain and improve contributions to cultural life in the city. For a current example of capacity building support, see the Arts & Culture Loan Fund.


Updated January 2024

How to Apply

Active Programs Accepting Applications:

  • Culture, Equity, and the Arts for organizations with budgets of $1 million and above; submit letters of inquiry.
  • Arts & Culture Loan Fund for current grantees with budgets between $250,000 and $5 million.
  • A Road Together (ART), an initiative of the Field Foundation supported by the MacArthur Foundation, for organizations with budgets up to $1 million.