MacArthur Foundation Announces Culture, Equity, and the Arts in Chicago Initiative

Deadline: Rolling (Letters of Inquiry)

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is revising its grantmaking approach to the arts in Chicago through an initiative called "Culture, Equity, and the Arts."

In the past, the foundation defined an arts organization as one whose sole mission was the creation and exhibition or production of art. While not intentional, this definition privileged traditional arts organizations such as symphonies, operas, ballets, theaters, and museums, which often serve predominantly white audiences. Through the new initiative, the foundation is expanding this definition to include arts-centered organizations in the city in which art is integral to executing an organization’s mission but not the only focus of its work.

Historically, arts grantees with the largest budgets received the largest grants. Under its new strategy, the foundation will award the largest grants to organizations whose work is centered on racial equity and/or that are focused on other traditionally underresourced identities, such as people with disabilities and people who identify on the LGBTQIA+ continuum. While the foundation expects to support a network that continues to include institutions that serve the general public, it recognizes that access to financial resources is not equitable across organizations and will strive to address that gap.

Interested organizations with budgets over $2 million may submit a Letter of Inquiry through the foundation’s online portal. Staff will follow up on those inquiries. Organizations deemed eligible will then be invited by foundation staff to submit an application. Instead of focusing on an organization’s activities or the work it produces, the foundation invites each organization to reflect on a set of four themes: collaboration, equity, connection, and relevance.

The foundation will be piloting the use of a participatory grantmaking panel to make funding decisions under this program. The group of five to eight people who serve on the panel will reflect the city’s diversity and geography as well as a range of professional and lived experience. The panel will review and discuss applications along with supporting information provided by MacArthur staff and others and will recommend a slate of grantees to MacArthur’s president and board, which retain their approval authority.

For more information and links to the online portal and application form, see the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation website.


Deadline: December 15, 2019