photo by: Zack Sabin

Think Grants

Think grants give arts organizations the time and space to think through a question, analyze challenges and opportunities, and develop plans or small tests of change.

Projects range from developing new earned income areas to creating community programming. They exemplify thoughtful initiatives seeking new opportunities.

Lawyers for the Creative Arts (LCA)

Lawyers for the Creative Arts (LCA) marshals the legal community to serve the arts community through free legal representation and educational programs. LCA responded quickly to the unprecedented COVID-related legal needs of both individual artists and arts organizations. The grant will help LCA in the research stage of its new Distressed Theater Workout Program. The program will offer assistance to theaters and other performing arts organizations in their efforts to survive the lengthy period of COVID-related loss of earned income. The grant will help LCA gain a more detailed understanding of the specific financial problems facing area non-profit theaters and to assemble a team of lawyers, workout consultants, and CPAs to develop the materials needed to offer these services.

Firebird Community Arts

Firebird Community Arts uses the healing practices of glassblowing and ceramics to empower and connect individuals impacted by trauma, including youth injured by gun violence in Chicago. This project is a partnership between Harold Washington College and Free Write Arts & Literacy, an organization that engages incarcerated and court-involved youth and young adults in the performing, visual, and literary arts. The partners will engage in a yearlong planning process to design a collaborative entrepreneurship model that builds on participants' assets and provides the necessary support for challenges due to their trauma-related distress. The partners are interested in an approach to entrepreneurship that defines profit and success as community financial health and stability and collectively dignity, confidence, and connection, as opposed to individual gain. (pictured above)

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Muslim American Leadership Alliance

The Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) preserves and amplifies the art of oral history and storytelling for Muslim Americans. MALA will gather oral histories of Black Muslim Americans, Muslims from African diaspora communities, and Muslims belonging to the LGBTQIA community, who often face obstacles in having their identities recognized and honored within the greater Muslim community. MALA will use its community platform to elevate these stories and has established partnerships with StoryCorps, the National Library of Congress, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture for this project.

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Chicago Film Archives

Chicago Film Archives (CFA) preserves, houses, and provides access to films representing Midwest heritage and legacies. These films include amateur and home movies from people in Chicago and the region. Although CFA hosts a Home Movie Day program each year, it would like to expand the public's access to its massive collection. This project will support the research, design, and a plan for a citywide public exhibition of home movies and other regional films throughout the Chicago Transit Authority's platforms and tunnels, creating a citywide canvas to exhibit the multicultural and historical family legacies embedded in CFA's home movies.

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Global Girls, Inc.

Global Girls is a theater and dance company that provides a platform for African American women of all ages o give voice to and tell their authentic stories while creating positive change in their lives and communities. Global Girls is partnering with the South Side Jazz Coalition and ABJ Community Services to assess the potential of a partnership model that helps the partners collectively become more vibrant and sustainable organizations that can better support their shared communities. The program interruptions and decreased income from contracts, special events, and performances caused by COVID-19 is stressing the capacity of these organizations. A partnership model will seek to develop an infrastructure that allows the organizations to withstand COVID-19 and future shifting social and economic tides.

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OPEN Center for the Arts

OPEN Center for the Arts is an arts organization, gallery, and community anchor located on the southwest side. The grant will enable the Center to promote peace through the arts as part of a larger, community-wide effort to heal divisions between North and South Lawndale. Artists from both communities will create their vision of unity amongst the communities. The work will be shared on social media platforms, printed on posters to be displayed by community residents and businesses, and, ultimately, be used to create two murals showcasing the North Lawndale and South Lawndale communities' unity as one community.

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Honey Pot Performance

Honey Pot Performance is a creative Afro-diasporic feminist organization that uses critical performance, public humanities programming, and deep community engagement to examine identity, belonging, and difference in our lives and cultural memberships. The ensemble's methodology is rooted in collective making, listening, and dialogue. The voices, images, gestures, and stories that emerge from working with community inform the artistic ensemble's studio creation process. This grant will help the organization test a menu of fee-for-service workshops in its training and facilitation method as a means for creating a mission-aligned, sustainable revenue stream that expands the organization's reach without taxing its capacity.

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photo by: Quinn Wharton

DanceWorks Chicago

DanceWorks Chicago supports early-career dancers and choreographers through training, collaboration, mentorship, and performance. It will use the grant to survey Chicago area organizations that hire dancers to understand artistic attributes desired in young artists. Using an Autumn 2020 survey of university dance majors across the country, DanceWorks will compare data from both surveys to identify a match or a disconnect between the skills and traits students have upon graduation and the skills and traits desired by artistic decision-makers assessing a candidate pool. DanceWorks will use the information to improve its training programs, inform its pre-audition experience for young dancers, and share findings broadly with the dance community.

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Teatro Vista, Theatre with a View

Teatro Vista, Theatre with a View is dedicated to nurturing and presenting voices that explore the wealth and variety of the human experience from a Latinx perspective. The grant will enable Teatro Vista time to re-think its management, organization, and leadership structure. It sees the pause in programming imposed by COVID-19 as an opportunity to reimagine the structure of the organization from one of hierarchy to one of ecology, and as an opportunity to enrich the artistic ensemble's relationship with the organization.

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Explore Grants

Explore grants provide arts organizations who have fully developed ideas with the resources to test and implement the concept.

Grants will support budding cooperatives and veteran ensembles who are looking to experiment with projects that strengthen community, build equity, and sustain organizations.

American Indian Center

The American Indian Center preserves, promotes, and disseminates intertribal and tribal-specific indigenous cultures for its Native constituency and the general public. It strives to challenge audiences of what Native art is in the 21st century. The grant with help the Center develop and market programming for the Intertribal Expressionism Gallery, a new exhibition space for Native artists that will exist on the American Indian Center's building exterior. The outdoor gallery will be a space for Native American public art that elucidates Native histories and contemporary issues. It will serve as a space for Native sculpture in response to the dearth of Native First-Voice-created statues in Chicago.

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Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA)

CLATA promotes and showcases existing and new U.S. Latino playwrights, actors, and directors. Its marquee Destinos program is an annual bilingual international performance festival. CLATA quickly pivoted programming in response to the COVID-19 pandemic this year by producing Destinos al Aire in place of the scheduled in-person theater festival, which had to be postponed due to mandated venue closures. Destinos al Aire was a one-night event presented live, in-person, and simulcast on a large outdoor drive-in movie screen and social media. Destinos al Aire had 500 in-person attendees at the drive-in and live-streamed on social media to over 1,700 people locally and internationally. This grant will expand Destinos al Aire from a one-time event to an open-air, multi-disciplinary series, allowing CLATA to continue its mission of promoting Latino voices.

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Full Spectrum Features

Full Spectrum Features works to increase diversity in the independent film industry. Full Spectrum, in collaboration with Northwest Film Forum (Seattle, WA) and The Luminal Theater (Brooklyn, NY) will use the grant to test a new model for supporting and compensating historically marginalized filmmakers that goes beyond nominal exposure opportunities and screening fees. Using Our Right To Gaze, a short film series from six emerging Black filmmakers that will be screened throughout the country in 2021, the tri-coastal partnership will pilot an exhibition and professional development program that provides participating filmmakers with profit-sharing and meaningful collaboration and educational opportunities tailored to their individual needs. The hope is that this pilot will serve as a model for other arts organizations as they pursue greater equity in their relationships with artists.

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National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture is the only Puerto Rican Museum in the nation solely devoted to showcasing Puerto Rican arts and culture. Like many small arts organizations of color, the Museum works on slim operating margins and lean staff. It has not had the staff expertise or the equipment needed to propel the Museum forward in the digital age. The lack of this infrastructure became acute due to COVID-19. The Museum has recently become a partner organization of the Google Arts & Culture, an app and website that partners with museums and cultural institutions from over 70 countries to give people access to diverse cultural heritage worldwide. This grant will enable the Museum to hire a staff person to oversee the Google Arts & Culture program and develop the tools and systems needed to offer virtual tours and curate more exhibitions than its physical space allows.

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Water People Theater

Water People Theater is dedicated to producing high-quality bilingual theater. The COVID-19 shut-down caused the Theater to fear for its survival. It decided to test the potential of live, online theater by creating an International Online Festival of Latino Theater; doing so required investments of time, creativity, and new organizational capacity. The Festival was a success by many measures, and the process taught Water People about the possibilities and challenges of live online theater. This grant will allow Water People to use that acquired knowledge to create a new international online stage for live theater. The Festival is a mechanism for Water People to develop partnerships between theater people in Chicago, the United States, Latin America, and the world; advance the positioning of Latino theater in the United States, attract audiences from communities that are less exposed to theater, and continue to stimulate live theater post-pandemic.

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West Point School of Music

West Point School of Music engages low-income youth through music instruction and performance, including the steel drum, and has a professional steel drum orchestra. The steel drum is an invention of African-Caribbean culture, evolving out of Trinidad's enslaved Africans and Afro-descendants' early musical practices. The only steel drums for sale in the marketplace come from Trinidad and Tobago, and they are expensive. West Point is working with manufacturing partners to make steel drums locally. This grant will help West Point realize the vision of a steel drum manufacturing and repair and sales shop. The shop would serve as a source of instruments for West Point students and as an earned revenue stream through general sales. It would also provide training and jobs to youth on Chicago's south side.

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South Asia Institute

The South Asia Institute's mission to cultivate the art and culture of South Asia and its diaspora through curated exhibitions, innovative programs, and educational initiatives. As a new cultural institution in Chicago, it is thinking through its role and place in the city. This project will explore the infrastructure of Chicago's people and communities through a South Asian lens, utilizing archival and ethnographic research, community partnerships, and artistic collaborations. The project will result in a multi-site, multi-scale exhibition that the Institute hopes will add a missing South Asian voice in Chicago's arts community working towards change. This will impact the organization by helping it serve as a hub of culture for South Asians and fellow communities across Chicago.

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Blue Tin Production

Blue Tin is an apparel manufacturing worker cooperative run by immigrant and working-class women of color using a creative, arts-based approach to systems change. It seeks to destabilize the normalization of sweatshops that plague the fashion industry and develop long-term racial equity for women. Worker health and safety have always been core to Blue Tin's work, but COVID-19 has made it more urgent as the inequalities and mortality rates of COVID-19 have taken their toll on the cooperative members' communities. With this grant, Blue Tin will develop a multi-pronged approach to trauma-informed care within workspaces and create a curriculum that incorporates political education on anti-Blackness, socioeconomic class, and white supremacy with mental health and holistic care.

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Praize Productions

Praize Productions is a dance and performing arts company rooted in innovative artistry and social consciousness. Typical of many newer organizations, a committed founder has primarily carried the full burden of running Praize since it began ten years ago. The disruptions and challenges caused by COVID-19 made clear the need to build a more robust administrative structure to manage the organization adequately. This grant will enable Praize to drive growth, adjust to the demands of the lockdown, and model pay equity for nonprofit staff and people of color. The plan is based on best practices learned from other nonprofits and businesses and shaped by Praize's commitment to the people and communities of the south and west sides and Black women artists.

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Collaboraction incites social change through original devised theatre, cultivating knowledge, dialogue, and action around Chicago's most critical social issues. The theater has grown its in-person audience on the south and west side by working with artists living and working in those areas and then offering those performances to audiences in spaces in their area. With social gatherings limited due to COVID-19, Given this history, Collaboraction will use grant funds to hire south side artists to create videos that speak to potential audience members during the cultural time we are living in. The work will be streamed on Collaboraction's Together Network platform and made easily accessible through local partner organizations.

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Congo Square Theatre Company

Congo Square Theater is an African American ensemble-based Equity theater company that produces traditional theater and staged plays rooted in the African Diaspora. It is deepening its commitment to being an organization that makes theatrical work that facilitates healing and enlightenment for the community and intentionally invests in the next generation of Black voices. The grant will be used for a new program that supports the development of young artists, by offering Black college playwrights an opportunity to partner with and be mentored by a professional company and ensemble.

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Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is a professional company dedicated to advancing the lives of women through theatre. This grant will help the theater move forward with a multi-faceted plan to shift its practices to become an anti-racist company. The grant includes support for a new Associate Artistic Director position, who will be intentionally recruited to bring new life experiences, perspective, and aesthetic focus to artistic leadership at Rivendell, and will allow Rivendell to experiment with new content and processes for reaching a larger, more diverse audience and a more equitable ticket pricing model.

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Kuumba Lynx

Kuumba Lynx is committed to art making centered on healing trauma through Hip Hop Arts. This grant will support initial development of a new component of Kuumba Lynx's work: The Healing Arts Center. The Center will take a holistic approach to healing by combining various restorative and health practices with artistic creation and expression. Wellness activities will target artists from across the city, Kuumba Lynx youth, and the community and will ultimately include practices (such as restorative circles, group therapy, divine body-work and massage, acupuncture, reiki, decolonized healing energy work, and yoga classes) to address the trauma caused by racism, sexism, institutional violence, community violence, and now COVID-19.

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photo from: We Are (PRO)jectUS

Commonwealth Foundation

Commonwealth offers creative arts career training in fashion design, music production, and digital media for youth ages 13 to 23 years old through its PROjectUS initiative. College, career, and financial literacy is embedded in PROjectUS. Participants use industry-standard tools to learn, receive peer-to-peer and professional feedback, develop portfolios to position them in the marketplace, and earn internships. The organization wants to build upon its digital media workforce development platform based on lessons learned. This grant will help it create a digital media publishing company as a bridge to professional careers, allowing the organization to be more effective and efficient in developing youth skill-development experiences.

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