Mayor Lightfoot announces $1 million increase in funding for cultural arts

$1 million increase includes at least $500,000 for artists and organizations in South
and West Side neighborhoods, and in under-resourced wards

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced today that the City of Chicago will
increase funding for cultural grants by $1 million, fulfilling a commitment to
prioritize equitable grantmaking and microfinancing to individual artists,
organizations and arts corridors throughout Chicago — particularly in communities
of need. This new investment increases the Department of Cultural Affairs and
Special Events Cultural Grants Program budget by 59 percent from $1.7 million
to $2.7 million. At least $500,000 will be restricted for projects taking place on the
South and West sides, and in wards that have traditionally been least served by the

“The arts are powerful. Now more than ever, it is essential that we lift up and invest
in our unparalleled Chicago artists,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “A robust Chicago arts
community inspires us, engages us, questions the status quo and has the power to
bring our diverse city together in conversation around the critical challenges of our

DCASE is primarily funded by the Special Events and Hotel Tax Fund and revenues
from this tax are used to support the promotion of cultural activities. There are no
Corporate Fund dollars being used for this increase.

This year’s budget proposes the following:

• $300,000 in increased funding for the former Microgrant Program, which
will be re-named the Neighborhood Access Program and offer grants up to
$50,000 for arts projects that are increasing diversity, access and inclusion in
under-resourced neighborhoods. This program will be open to individuals
and all types of nonprofit organizations.

• $110,000 for additional grants distributed through the existing Individual
Artists Program for projects in alignment with DCASE’s “Year of” themes
and for new “Esteemed Artist Awards,” which will range in size from $10,000
– $15,000 and can be applied to any expenses associated with an artist’s

• $140,000 in increased general operating support for arts and cultural
organizations (which has grown by 58% over the past three years),
distributed through the existing CityArts Program.

• $350,000 for additional sector-building project grants in alignment with
DCASE’s “Year of” themes — also distributed through the CityArts Program.
Additionally, a $100,000 increase will be allocated to arts education and to covering
production costs for DCASE’s ArtsSpace public programming grantees.

“Today marks an exciting time for the City as we celebrate our vibrant cultural
community and begin the work to further improve access to the arts in every
neighborhood throughout Chicago,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “Mayor
Lightfoot’s increased funding will ensure that more local artists have an opportunity
to develop their talents and skills and share them with the world.”

Since 1984, the Cultural Grants Program has served as a catalyst to foster a robust,
healthy arts community where artists, non-profit arts and culture and creative
industries thrive. DCASE now offers competitive grants in the following three
categories. For more information and to apply, please visit

“There is no question that the arts are vital to a neighborhood’s spirit and the
quality of life for our residents,” said Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th), Chair of the
Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation. “I am pleased that
more Chicago artists and community organizations will be supported through this
increase, without tapping the Corporate Fund.”
Individual Artists Program

Through project grants, the Individual Artists Program aims to assist Chicago’s
practicing artists in creating work that develops their craft and elevates their
careers, while adding to the cultural vitality of the city of Chicago. In 2020, all
applicants to the IAP Program will also be considered for a special new grant — the
Esteemed Artist Awards, which may be applied to any expenses associated with an
artist’s practice.

• Project grants range from $500 – $5,000; ~100 grants per year.
• Esteemed Artist Awards range from $10,000 – $15,000; 1–15 grants per

The application is currently open with a deadline of December 5, 2019 at 5 pm CST. 




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