People in the street at a block party Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, photo by: Ken Carl

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.

a group photo at an art exhibit

Center for Native Futures

Center for Native Futures was established in 2021 by a group of Chicago-based Native artists and writers to foster and promote the voices of Native people of the Great Lakes region. The organization centers Indigenous Futurisms, a genre of Native arts that expands opportunities and reimagines Native realities without colonial limitations. The organization has secured a Loop-based gallery space that will open in early 2023. This grant will allow it to develop a strategic plan to create sustainable operating and programming practices in its new gallery space.

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a group photo 2022 Lab Artists
Photo by: Matt Marion @g4aperture

Chicago Dancemakers Forum

Chicago Dancemakers Forum provides Chicago dancemakers with the time and resources for in-depth exploration and creation. This grant will support organization in adapting its programs to meet Chicago dancemakers' post-pandemic needs. It will investigate ways to better support artists that are currently underrepresented in its programs, developing more transparent and community-driven programming decisions, potentially expanding its Consortium to include partner organizations outside of dance that support artists' social, emotional, and financial well-being and a staffing structure to support these initiatives.

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a dance production

Congo Square Theatre

Congo Square Theatre is a premiere equity theatre company created by, for, and with Black Artists. It seeks support to develop a strategic plan that explores the following questions: how can its current radical generosity model further remove barriers and increase access to performing arts for low-income, historically excluded communities; how does a radical theater evolve to include audiences as well as allies in the community, and; how will securing a permanent home for the company and its performers yield the radical expansion of Congo Square’s overall mission of raising Black voices and stories into the wider theatrical landscape?

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two dancers in embrace Saidiya Imari and Pierre Clark in Episodes
Photo by: Ken Carl

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s mission is to reimagine and diversify the aesthetics of contemporary dance by uniting modern, classical, American, and African American traditions in dance and storytelling. Deeply Rooted is at a critical point in its evolution. The founders are transferring leadership to a new generation, and the company is developing a dance center, which is scheduled to break ground in 2023, with expected occupancy in 2025.

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two artists performing amongst plants Photo: Rafael Loza. Clara de Asìs and Veronica Anne Salinas in a closing performance at the Lincoln Park Conservatory for their Outer Ear Residency exchange.

Experimental Sound Studio

Experimental Sound Studio is dedicated to artistic evolution and the creative exploration of sound. The organization grew significantly between 2020-2021, mainly due to the creation of The Quarantine Concerts, a live-stream concert series of over 369 performances. This grant allows the organization to pilot an Artistic Advisory Council that will explore questions that this growth has raised: How can programming and workflow shift to better support its current community of artists, actively connect with new artists and practices, and enact better anti-racist practices?

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a group photo Photo by: James Klein

The International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago

The International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago is a Pan-Latino multidisciplinary art and cultural organization dedicated to developing, promoting, and increasing awareness of Latino cultures among Latinos and other communities. The pandemic offered the Center an opportunity to reflect and chart a new path forward. This grant will help it determine its ability to develop a Pan-Latino art complex to house its growing programs and staff.

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A young person on the set of a video shoot. Soham Dance Space

Explore Grants

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

a person working in a wood shop


Alt_ Chicago is an artist-led organization that uses the arts to revitalize communities through creative placemaking. Its initiatives are designed to engage community members, artists, cultural organizations, community developers, and others to implement community-led change. Its Creating Live Art for the Youth program trains youth to think critically about their environment and design new spaces and devices that serve the community. This grant will help alt_ test the potential of a yearlong teaching artist residency. Participants will learn to implement the program and develop a portable model that can be replicated at partner sites, online, or through a hybrid approach.

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Chicago Alliance of Film Festivals @ Facets

Chicago Alliance of Film Festivals is a new consortium designed to grow the film festival sector and enrich local communities in Chicago through collaborative, long-term sector-building initiatives. It was developed, in part, through an AWF THINK grant. FACETS, an organization with a long history of screening arthouse and independent films and offering community education, administers the Alliance. This grant will help launch the operating structure and initial programs of the Alliance.

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a group cutting a ribbon Photo by Malik Jackson

Chicago Human Rhythm Project

Chicago Human Rhythm Project invests in rhythm-centric artists and companies through concerts and education programs featuring African, Irish, Indian, Mexican, Native American, and American dance and music. CHRP's programs are designed to foster economic development and social reconciliation in communities throughout Chicago. The Arts Work Fund grant will support leadership expansion, the transfer of institutional knowledge, and a co-leadership model outlined in its strategic and force structure plans.

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A group of people

Kuumba Lynx

Kuumba Lynx develops art and culture projects and curates access to space, people, and programs that preserve, promote and present Hip-Hop culture where youth and their communities can be engaged in transformative opportunities to imagine, practice, and realize a more equitable world. For the past two years, with AWF support, Kuumba Lynx has piloted and built ISSA VIBE, a space that combines the healing of various health practices with artistic creation and expression. This third grant would allow Kuumba Lynx to continue to increase partnerships, hours, and types of healing offered.

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An artist working with a child in a hospital bed Photo: Rush University Medical Center and Jess Leonard.

Snow City Arts

Snow City Arts inspires and educates children and youth in hospitals through the arts. It seeks support for a " Communities Creating Together: Leveraging Virtual Learning Resources to Connect our Communities " project. A 2021 AWF THINK project helped Snow City leverage Virtual Learning to broaden its reach to new students. This project brings SCA's arts learning programs outside of the hospital setting in an ongoing way. Community-led programs will include virtual Art Parties, Open Studios, and a Youth Leadership Council to cultivate deeper connections with students, alums, families, hospital stakeholders, and the public.

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Soham Dance Space

Soham Dance Space is dedicated to centering experimental voices and cross-community collaboration within Chicago's dance and performance ecosystem. Soham will test a dance studio model dedicated to holding compassionate space for collective movement to energize connection, reflection, and release. The vision includes recognizing the non-neutral physical space of gathering as integral to and an extension of embodiment practices. The arts and neighborhood communities, as well as the physical infrastructures that surround the Soham Dance Space studio, are critical to the imagination of this project.

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A group photo

South Chicago Dance Theatre

South Chicago Dance Theatre is a multicultural organization fusing classical and company dance while preserving historic dance work. The grant supports the implementation of a five-year structural enhancement strategy. With the help of a consultant, the organization will create the systems necessary for growth, including board development, financial management, fundraising, human resources, and emergency planning.

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A peace circle


Territory is a place-based urban design studio where young people are building better futures for themselves and their communities through hands-on practice design projects. An AWF THINK grant in early 2022 helped Territory establish a base in Austin designed by youth. Since the opening of the Austin space, Territory has seen changed demand, both in terms of the number of students showing interest and the types of programs students are requesting. This grant will support a plan to expand programs to serve students at multiple levels of training from beginning to advanced, formal to drop-in.

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Children and a globe

Water People Theater

Water People Theater is a bilingual Latino theater company. The grant will support the piloting of Water People Theater STUDIO, a bilingual theatrical training program for children and adults that is both a community engagement and earned revenue strategy. The pilot will enable Water People to launch the project, begin to explore its strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments as needed.

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