Priority: Enhance cultural vibrancy, access and diversity

Chicago’s arts and cultural resources enrich our quality of life, provide a magnet for cultural tourism and contribute to our economic strength. Where other industrial cities have struggled, Chicago is a broad-based, diverse, culturally vibrant place to live and work; the arts are a major factor in that success. Arts Alliance Illinois estimates that nonprofit arts organizations pump more than $1 billion into the state’s economy every year. These resources attract investment and the kind of talent that’s highly prized in the 21st century: creative people who can tackle complex problems and envision a brighter future.

Click here to explore: Arts strategy in depth
Grant making in Arts and Culture supports Community Goal #3: Promoting civic and cultural vitality.
The Trust believes strongly that arts offer unparalleled opportunities to engage residents and bring the community together. It is committed to enhancing access for adults, students, artists and audiences who are underserved and underrepresented, while working with colleagues to identify and fill gaps. Arts and Culture grant making also reinforces the Trust’s efforts to enhance the quality of life through cultural diversity, improved public education, economic development and civic engagement, environmental sustainability and safe, healthy communities.
Specific arts initiatives aim to provide resources to a select cohort of grantees to catalyze broader community impact and promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing that sparks innovation.
Funding opportunity #1: Supporting the development of small arts organizations
The Trust believes that the foundation of the region’s cultural ecology is its breadth of small community-based theatres, galleries, music ensembles, dance companies and ethnic museums. These serve as fertile ground for emerging artists, anchors for fragile neighborhoods and platforms for civic discourse and ethnic identity. They are as important as the major cultural institutions in sustaining Chicago’s standing as a world-class urban center.
The Trust seeks to help small arts organizations develop the management capacity to effectively support their artistic mission, contribute to their communities, pay a living wage to their artists and employees, diversify sources of revenue and remain resilient in the face of economic shifts, the loss of a founder or changing demographics.
The SMART Growth Initiative is a three-year capacity-building program in collaboration with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago designed to ensure that small arts organizations benefit from sound management practices that effectively support their art and ensure their resilience through economic shifts, staff transitions and evolving markets. Potential grant recipients should be deeply rooted in and reflective of a community, target population or art form that is underrepresented in the cultural spectrum of the Chicago region.
Funding opportunity #2: Supporting diverse arts productions and fostering art in every community
The Arts & Culture section of the GO TO 2040 Plan contains two key recommendations:
1. Ensure that all individuals, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, income, gender, religion, sexual orientation or ability, have access to the region’s cultural life and to opportunities for meaningful arts engagement.
2. Ensure that the Chicago region’s creative sector serves and represents the demographics of all the people who live and work in the region.
In 2012, The Chicago Community Trust supported the development of the new Chicago Cultural Plan which stresses the importance of access to the arts and cross-pollination of creative ideas. To see the maps and data on arts access and neighborhood demographics, visit www.culturalindicators.org.
During a four-year collaboration with the Wallace Foundation, the Trust explored the challenges to achieving arts participation and audience diversification that confront nonprofit arts and culture institutions everywhere. Local studies show that participation in Chicago’s largest arts and cultural organizations is highest in predominantly white, high-income areas. Socioeconomic factors are more relevant predictors of arts participation than ethnicity; however, for more traditional institutions, ethnicity is still a key predictor for participation. Ethnic, diverse and small organizations successfully reach different audiences than do major institutions.
Out of this work has come the realization that broadening audiences and expanding access depend less on ceaseless and creative marketing than on the relevance and authenticity of the artistic product, as well as its accessibility. Artistic collaborations have demonstrated the most measurable success by creating productions that resonate with a broader audience.
Funding opportunity #3: Improving access to arts learning opportunities
Arts learning grants seek to provide measurable benefits to students that have inequitable access to these essential opportunities. Elementary-age children can seldom advocate on their own behalf or vote with their feet if the programs provided are mediocre. High school students, by contrast, are quick to vote with their feet if activities are not engaging—and often pursue less constructive alternatives.
Many studies document the impact of music, visual, dance and literary/theater instruction on student outcomes, both academic and in social and emotional areas. However, factors such as insufficient funding, short school day/year, inadequate training for teachers and lack of instruments or equipment limit students’ access to these proven benefits, especially those attending under-resourced public schools. A survey of current arts education shows that low-income, low-performing high school students have less access to arts programs for a range of reasons. Low-performing students must take remedial classes rather than arts electives. Many CPS high schools cannot afford security for regular after-school programs, and students who have been suspended or truant cannot attend such programs. At the same time, outside resources are dwindling. Publicly-funded programs have experienced significant cuts and available slots are often quickly claimed by the most motivated students. Students in under-resourced communities need engaging, rigorous, challenging programs with appropriately trained arts instructors, supplies and equipment.
Chicago has almost 200 cultural organizations, large and small, from every artistic discipline that serve as “arts partners,” filling gaps by working in the classroom and during out-of-school time. Understandably, coordination, capacity and competence are the most challenging aspects of this approach.
The Trust has supported the development of the CPS Guide for Teaching and Learning in the Arts and sector-specific convenings to organize each discipline around its implementation. This Guide serves as the unifying set of standards and templates for Trust grant making in the field of Arts Learning.
Through this work, arts opportunities for underserved children will be increased and strengthened. The common framework and language provided by the CPS Guide will be effectively utilized to align the work being done by arts partners with the work of certified CPS art teachers, classroom teachers and other arts partners to provide multiple benefits to children.:
The Trust, through both its Arts and Education staffs, will continue to play an active leadership role in collaborative efforts to support systemic change (including extending the school day and providing more certified art teachers in CPS) along with data collection to track progress. These are long-term goals that will require steady advocacy and monitoring.
Simultaneously, the Trust is leading the effort to improve the effectiveness of nonprofit arts partners serving students with the most limited access to arts. Trust initiatives are designed to build the capacity of nonprofit arts learning providers, thereby enhancing their effectiveness in achieving 5 fundamental goals: nurturing future artists; building audiences; introducing and reinforcing the arts as a pathway to college and careers; fostering essential social and emotional learning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills; and promoting civic engagement by young people.
The Arts Infusion Initiative for High-Risk Teens was launched in 2010 as a result of the ARRA partnership (PDF), the Arts Infusion Initiative currently consists of 15 grant recipients working in high-risk settings with teens who have had encounters with the criminal justice system, experienced school disciplinary action and reside in the federally-designated Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative (CAGI) communities. Grant recipients use resources related to the CPS Guide for Teaching and Learning in the Arts and stress social/emotional learning skills associated with conflict resolution. Knowledge-sharing occurs through the Arts Infusion Initiative blog and monthly professional development sessions. Expertise is provided by the CPS Office of Arts Education and the Loyola University College of Fine and Performing Arts.
Proposals will be solicited directly from specific organizations for this program. There will be no RFP process.

 

Grant making in arts and culture

The Trust's grant funding seeks to enhance arts access for adults, students, artists and audiences who are underserved and underrepresented.

In 2013, The Chicago Community Trust awarded grants in this priority totaling $3,628,000.

 

RFP: Supporting the Development of Small Arts Organizations - SMART Growth
The SMART Growth Initiative is a three-year capacity-building program in collaboration with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago designed to ensure that small arts organizations benefit from sound management practices that effectively support their art and ensure their resilience through economic shifts, staff transitions and evolving markets. Potential grant recipients should be deeply rooted in and reflective of a community, target population or art form that is underrepresented in the cultural spectrum of the Chicago region.
Outcomes Sought
  • Strengthened development of 30 diverse arts organizations.
  • 90% of selected participants will achieve three-year outcomes directed toward lagging management areas, ensuring stable and resilient small arts organizations that showcase the range of Chicago’s talent.
Grant cycle and applications

The RFP for SMART growth is released every July. Proposals are due at the beginning of September. Grant awards will be decided in January.


In addition, arts and cultural organizations with operating budgets less than $1 million may seek grants to support capacity building from the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development. Applications are accepted twice each year.

 

RFP: Supporting Diverse Arts Productions and Fostering Art in Every Community
Years of research and collaboration have shown that broadening audiences for the arts depends less on ceaseless and creative marketing than on the relevance and authenticity of the artistic product, as well as its accessibility. Artistic collaborations have demonstrated the most measurable success by creating productions that resonate with a broader audience, producing:
  • Productions/exhibitions that showcase and strengthen diversity
  • Increased art available in neighborhood venues
  • Broader and more inclusive participation across all market segments: age, income, ethnicity, disability and geography
  • Diverse collaborations that lead to artistic innovation
Organizations are encouraged to work together to submit complementary proposals for collaborations that:
  • Showcase the talents of culturally specific artists
  • Perform/exhibit/conduct programs in venues located in areas of Cook County that are culturally underserved
  • Perform/exhibit/conduct programs in public venues (such as libraries, parks, community colleges and public plazas) located in areas of Cook County that are culturally underserved
  • Plan and implement projects with meaningful involvement by leaders/collaborators from the target community or audience
  • Ensure affordability and accessibility for the target community or audience
  • Include an effective means of tracking market penetration and participant response
  • Include well-defined strategies for building on or sustaining the collaboration, cross-promotion or presence within the target market or community
  • Increase the Trust’s visibility within the target community
Grant cycle and applications
The grant process for artistic and cultural diversity opens in January, with an invitation to submit Letters of Inquiry. Organizations will be chosen to submit proposals from among those LOIs. Proposals are due at the beginning of May. Grant awards will be decided in September.

 

RFP: Improving Access to Arts Learning Opportunities
The Trust is leading the effort to improve the effectiveness of the almost 200 nonprofit arts partners serving students. Trust initiatives are designed to build the capacity of nonprofit arts learning providers, thereby enhancing their effectiveness in achieving 5 fundamental goals: nurturing future artists; building audiences; introducing and reinforcing the arts as a pathway to college and careers; fostering essential social and emotional learning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills; and promoting civic engagement by young people.
Outcomes Sought
  • Improved coherence and sequencing from grade-to-grade (or level-to-level) within a specific discipline
  • Expose every child to the fundamentals of all four artistic disciplines through the course of their elementary years
  • Stronger continuity between exposure in the classroom and deeper participation through out-of-school programs
  • More intentional and effective integration of arts into classroom activities to achieve specifically defined learning outcomes
  • Greater ability for all teaching artists to articulate and assess learning outcomes using the language of the Guide, which is accepted by CPS and shared with other providers
Grant cycle and applications
The RFP for arts learning is released every November. Proposals are due at the beginning of January. Grant awards will be decided in May.

 

RFP: Capacity building for the sector
Arts service organizations serving as resources to Trust initiatives, such as SMART Growth, Arts Learning, cultural research, advocacy and diversity efforts, can apply for funding under this area. Specific Requests for Proposals will be published in the future and will provide more detailed information.
Grant cycle and applications
The RFP for Strengthening professional networks for emerging artists is released every July. Proposals are due at the beginning of September.Grant awards will be decided in January.

 

The RFP for Measuring cultural vitality is released every July. Proposals are due at the beginning of September. Grant awards will be decided in January.

Visit GrantCentral for complete details or to begin your application. If you have a log-in already, you will be taken directly to this RFP once you log in. If you are new to GrantCentral, please follow the directions to create an account.


In addition, arts and cultural organizations with operating budgets less than $1 million may seek grants to support capacity building from the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development. Applications are accepted three times per year.

Contact Us

Please direct all inquiries to Suzanne Connor, Senior Program Officer at sconnor@cct.org

 

You can find more details about grant opportunities, and sign up for email notifications when they open, inside GrantCentral, our new online grant management system. Sign up and create an account for full access to grant programs at the Trust.

 

Grants in Artistic & Cultural Diversity
January 15: Grant program opens
February 28: LOIs due
May 1: Proposals due
September: Award decisions made
Grants in Capacity Building
July 15: RFP opens
August 29: Proposals due
January: Award decisions made
Grants in Arts Learning
November 15: RFP opens
January 2: Proposals due
May: Award decisions made

Resources

CulturalIndicators.org
Maps and data that reflect arts access in Chicago's neighborhoods

 

Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development
Provides capacity building grants to organizations with operating budgets less than $1 million

 

Arts & Culture in the GO TO 2040 Plan

 


Jazz Ensemble