MacArthur Awards $2.9 Million to Advance Social Equity via the Arts

MacArthur Awards $2.9 Million to Advance Social Equity via the Arts

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced grants totaling nearly $3 million in support of efforts to address racial segregation and inequities in access to art and cultural experiences for historically underrepresented groups in Chicago.

Multiyear general support grants were awarded through the foundation's new Culture, Equity, and the Arts grantmaking portfolio to ten local nonprofits, including arts and cultural institutions as well as arts-centered organizations in which the arts are integral to their mission but are not their primary stated activity. Recipients include Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development (BUILD; $375,000 over five years), an art-centered West Side youth development organization; the Chicago Botanic Garden ($150,000 over three years); Chicago Children's Choir ($375,000 over five years), a multiracial, multicultural organization founded in 1956 in the early days of the civil rights movement; Chicago Shakespeare Theater ($150,000 over three years); Chicago Sinfonietta ($375,000 over five years), whose programming includes mentoring for young musicians, conductors, and administrators of color as well as music education in Chicago Public Schools; Enrich Chicago ($375,000 over five years), a coalition of arts organizations and foundations that works to promote greater racial equity in Chicago's arts and culture sector; Joffrey Ballet of Chicago ($150,000 over three years), which operates community engagement programs and the Academy of Dance for aspiring dancers of all ages; the Little Black Pearl Workshop ($375,000 over five years), an arts and education facility; Urban Gateways ($375,000 over five years), a center that engages young people in arts experiences to inspire creativity and impact social change; and Victory Gardens Theater ($225,000 over three years), which presents new works from culturally diverse theater artists and operates a variety of education, outreach, and community engagement programs.

Launched in 2019, the Culture, Equity, and the Arts program is structured around a participatory grantmaking process in which a panel of Chicagoans from diverse backgrounds recommends slates of grant recipients for consideration by foundation leadership. Grant recipients are assessed based on four organizational values: collaboration, commitment to fostering equity, connectivity (reflecting an organization’s relationship with the city and its neighborhoods), and relevance (the degree to which the organization engages with contemporary issues).

"The participatory grantmakers' conversations were thoughtful and nuanced, and they applied the new criteria rigorously," Geoffrey Banks, program officer for the foundation's Chicago Commitment program, wrote in a blog post about the CEA participatory grantmaking process. "In general, organizations that were recommended for funding demonstrated their commitment to equity by who is at decision-making tables; how decisions are made; and how power, resources, and responsibilities are shared."

"Advancing Social Equity Through the Arts." MacArthur Foundation Press Release 03/10/2020. Geoffrey Banks. "A Work in Progress: Participatory Grantmaking in the Arts." MacArthur Foundation Blog Post 03/10/2020.