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International Connections Fund

Our Goal

Supporting two-way artistic exchanges that benefit Chicago arts organizations and their international collaborators

International Connections Fund grants are made by invitation only. View the International Connections Fund Grant Guidelines >


The International Connections Fund enables Chicago arts organizations to launch new partnerships and creative projects with cultural organizations in other countries. We are pleased to note that proposed exchanges with U.S. Territories and Tribal National are eligible for ICF grant support.

Initiated in 2008, the Foundation has awarded more than 140 such grants.

International Connections Fund grants are limited to Chicago-area nonprofit arts and culture organizations that are current grantees of the MacArthur Culture, Equity, and the Arts direct portfolio or through the MacArthur Funds established at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts.


International Connections Fund grant guidelines ›



How do I apply?

Please Note:

MacArthur is closely monitoring the rapidly-evolving impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Given the unavoidable implications for international travel, we will suspend the International Connections Fund (ICF) program. Applications to ICF will not be accepted in 2020. We expect to use funds from our 2020 ICF program to assist in the Chicago response to COVID-19.




Is my organization eligible to apply for an International Connections Fund (IFC) grant?

The following organizations are eligible to apply for funding from the MacArthur Foundation under this initiative:

  • A nonprofit organization in the Chicago area that is currently a grantee of the MacArthur Culture, Equity, and the Arts direct portfolio or
  • A nonprofit organization in the Chicago area that is currently a grantee of the MacArthur Funds established at the Driehaus Foundation or at the Prince Charitable Trusts.



What is the MacArthur Foundation’s new Indirect Cost Policy?

Effective January 1, 2020, it is the policy of the Foundation to provide an indirect cost recovery of 29 percent of project costs on all project grants.

ICF grant requests should include a project budget that indicates total project costs and the proposed use of MacArthur funds, to which the Foundation’s 29 percent indirect cost rate would be applied. Under this policy, the maximum total ICF grant amount is $64,500. This amount includes a maximum of $50,000 for project costs, plus a 29 percent indirect cost recovery on the portion of the project that is funded by MacArthur. View the guidelines for applicants to identify project costs and seek recovery of indirect costs.



If I received funding from the International Connections Fund in the past, am I still eligible to apply?

Yes, prior ICF recipients are eligible to apply (provided the organization fulfills the eligibility requirements above). Please note that if your organization received a grant during the last two International Connections Fund cycles (2018-2019 or 2019-2020) it is very unlikely that MacArthur will fund your proposal.



If my organization has applied as part of a consortium in the past and we received funding are we still eligible to apply for funding in this round?

Yes, but see the answer above.



We have applied in the past, but we were turned down. Should we still apply? 

Yes, each year the applicant pool is different. If you have an excellent exchange opportunity and you meet the eligibility criteria, please apply.  



Will proposals to support existing international exchanges be considered?

Preference will be given to projects that establish or expand new collaborations with Chicago-based groups. That said, we will consider proposals that might significantly improve or advance an existing collaboration. Competitive proposals will outline projects that are ready to implement, in which the international partner is identified, and a clear rationale for the collaboration is presented.



Does all the funding have to be used within one year of grant disbursement?

No. The exchange must begin within one year of grant disbursement. We recognize that reciprocal exchanges may take more than one year to complete. As part of the grant’s requirements, we ask for a report each year after the grant is awarded demonstrating how the funds were used and the progress of the international exchange and collaboration. The number of years of reporting will depend on the progress of the exchange. At the conclusion of the project, a successful applicant will be expected to submit a written report describing the activities funded by the grant and what was learned or accomplished through the use of the grant funds. In addition, we encourage the submission of any audio, video, photos, or press related to your exchange.



Are certain countries preferred for exchanges?

Projects that make connections with any country will be considered. However, please consider that the time it takes to process visa applications varies from country to country.  For those exchanges with countries we know to be challenging, such as Cuba, we ask that at the time of application you have started the license and visa process.  



Should I include fees associated with the visa process in my budget?

Yes, it is highly recommended that you include any fees associated with international travel in your budget—including visa application fees.



  What else should I know about the visa application process?

We are finding that in many cases, the visa application process is slow, and changes often take place that we may not be unaware of.  It is impossible for us to give you a realistic timeline of how long it will take to receive visas. Though ICF awardees will be offered assistance with visa issues, if you have questions that may impact your implementation timeline, we recommend that you consult with a qualified immigration attorney for advice.



Are U.S. Territories and Tribal Nations included in the definition of "international?"

Yes. Proposed exchanges with U.S. Territories and Tribal Nations are eligible for ICF grant support.



Can the funds be used to support travel of international performance groups across the U.S., including Chicago?

No, the grant is intended to promote a true exchange between Chicago groups and their international counterparts rather than a presentation of work by an international group. That said, a grant may support the Chicago portion of a larger, collaborative initiative that may include other cities.



What kind of documentation will I need from my partner organization(s)?

In the application we ask for a brief background statement on the history and qualifications of your partnering organization(s). We do not need a budget from your partner organization.  Letters from partner organizations confirming the intent to collaborate are welcomed, but not required.



What types of due diligence material (i.e. IRS Determination Letter, audit, etc) will I need to include in the application?

Because we are only taking applications from organizations that currently receive grants from MacArthur either directly or through Prince or Driehaus, we are requesting minimal due diligence material that includes your organizational budget and your project budget. For grantees of Prince or Driehaus we ask that you provide, in addition to the budgets, a 501(c)3 Determination Letter and your most recent audit (if the organization has one).



Does there need to be a one-to-one correlation for the exchange partners?

It has to be a dual artistic exchange – where both organizations are receiving significant benefit. For many this means either a shared piece that gets created through the exchange and is performed (or exhibited) in participating countries (but not in all circumstances).



Are there any restrictions on the funds?

Grant funds must be used in accordance with applicable law.

  • Any travel or expenses associated with the grant including hotels and other accommodations must be reasonable and necessary to accomplish the grant purpose(s), and for travel to the countries explicitly identified in the grant application.



What are the selection criteria?

The following factors will be given particular weight:  

  • New or expanded programs rather than programs that are core to the organization or that have been ongoing for several years.
  • Reciprocal artistic exchanges to and from Chicago (rather than in only one direction).
  • Projects that are ready to implement (i.e. partner is identified, budget drafted, timeline created) rather than proposals that are in the early planning stages or proposals to support planning.
  • Likelihood of raising sufficient funds to successfully implement the project. 
  • New applicants to the International Connections Fund (ICF). Prior ICF recipients are eligible to apply provided they are current grantees of either the MacArthur direct Culture, Equity, and the Arts portfolio or the MacArthur Funds established at the Driehaus Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts, but please note if you received a grant during the last two International Connections Fund cycles (2018-2019 or 2019-2020) it is very unlikely that MacArthur will fund your proposal.
  • ALAANA (African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, or Native American) arts organizations.

The following definition will be used to identify an ALAANA arts organization:

  • An ALAANA organization is one whose primary intentions, practices and mission are by, for, and about ALAANA artists, cultures and communities. (The word “for” refers to the intention of the organization to perpetuate, promote, and present art that is representative of an ALAANA culture and people and/or is given form by ALAANA artists.)
  • All eligible organizations are encouraged to apply - identifying as an ALAANA arts organization is not a requirement.



Updated March 2020

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