photo: Sisters in Cinema

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 include developing artist spaces, explorations of pay equity in the sector, and creative community documentation.

Chicago Media Project

CMP provides financial, logistical, and mentorship to filmmakers that are historically underfunded. CMP sees the tremendous potential to expand and diversify its audiences using virtual offerings and a virtual cinema platform developed in response to the pandemic. The grant will allow CMP to work with fellow community organizations and individuals across Chicago to analyze potential barriers to access and develop strategies to ensure its platform is a welcoming and inclusive tool for community connection.

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ConTextos uses the power of personal narrative to promote healing and reflection and to foster critical thinking and dialogue towards a vision of communities that are stronger because every voice is heard. A private funder is providing a new home for ConTextos. The new space is an opportunity to establish a center for trauma-informed storytelling grounded in racial justice. The grant will help the organization plan how it will use the facility through a process that includes community input and the cultivation of new partnerships to help shape a community vision for a new space.

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photo by: Photo by Ken Carl

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater reimagines and diversifies the aesthetics of contemporary dance by uniting modern, classical, American and African-American traditions in dance and storytelling. Deeply Rooted is leading the creation of a modern, state-of-the-art South Side Dance Center. The COVID pandemic has added new design considerations, such as how to offer the benefits of remote and virtual training, performing, teaching while also maintaining a visible, physical presence in a community, how to build pandemic-resilient dance spaces, and how to incorporate new technologies that engage audiences in interactive hybrid, live, and streamed performances. The grant will support work with architects, art center consultants, partners, and the community to explore design answers to these questions.

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Elgin Area Historical Society

The Elgin Social Justice Collective is a partnership of several Elgin individuals and organizations, including the Elgin History Museum. The grant will support Making Space: A Mural and Documentary, a community engagement project inspired by the board-up art created during the civil rights protests of 2020 in Elgin, Illinois. The mural and documentary are part of a larger effort to create meaningful conversations on racial equity between different groups and give voice to the young and underrepresented. The documentary team will film the mural process in June 2021, giving life to the project even after the mural is complete.

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Full Spectrum Features

Full Spectrum Features is committed to driving equity in the independent film industry by producing, exhibiting, and supporting the work of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ filmmakers. In 2022, the organization seeks to pilot a guaranteed basic income program that will support up to ten emerging filmmakers from the greater Chicago area. The program will provide selected filmmakers $1,000 a month for up to ten years and test whether such a program could help marginalized filmmakers stay and thrive in the field. The grant will help Full Spectrum with the research and development of the pilot program structure and funding.

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Hearing in Color

Hearing in Color is a Chicago-based organization dedicated to sharing music, stories, and composers that have been historically excluded from musical spaces with its community. Our productions underscore the work of artists who are overlooked in mediums where white-centered experiences are the default. The grant will support a strategic planning and organizational development process that helps codify the organizational, operational, and financial structures needed to ensure a sustainable model of equitable production and presentation centered on experiences of historically excluded creative communities.

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National Indo-American Museum

National Indo-American Museum is a national repository of the Indian American story. With COVID 19, the Museum became increasingly aware of the limitations of a place-focused approach to operations and programming. The grant will support the Museum in developing a robust digital presence beyond the pandemic's needs, broadening its reach, and strengthening its national identity.

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Sisters in Cinema

Sisters in Cinema centers and celebrates Black girls, women, and gender-nonconforming media makers, providing programs designed to educate, raise visibility, and support and serve its communities. The organization is building a media art center for women and gender-nonconforming filmmakers in South Shore that will feature a gallery, 45-seat theater, editing lab, and educational space. The Center is slated to open in Fall 2021. The grant will support the creation of a business and fundraising model to support long-term sustainability.

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photo by: William Camargo

Sixty Inches from Center

Sixty Inches From Center is a collective of writers, editors, artists, curators, and archive lovers who publish writings and produce collaborative projects about artists, archival practice, and culture in Chicago and the Midwest. The grant will help formalize The Sixty Artist Roster, an artist-centered gig service and talent source for anyone interested in expanding their pool of prospective artists and cultural workers for job, project, and commission opportunities. The effort seeks to be an advocacy tool for healthy working conditions within the cultural gig economy and an added benefit to Sixty’s extended network of working artists, writers, and archivists. It will also potentially serve as an earned revenue strategy to sustain The Roster and Sixty’s editorial and archiving efforts.

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Urban Theater Company

Urban Theater Company is a collective of Chicago Latinx actors, designers, and producers. It is partnering with Definition Theater Company to create The BIPOC Trail, a digital experience that merges radio plays, an interactive map, and a driving/walking tour that connects the north and south side of Chicago through ethnographic storytelling. The idea of The BIPOC Trail came out of the need to have accessible art while increasing and engaging audiences during the dual pandemic of COVID and racial oppression. The grant will help create a new model in multimedia theater experiences that is artistically enriching and provides a way for people to engage with a rich archive of different histories in Chicago.

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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.

Projects will amplify the voices of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists and artists with disabilities, build togetherness through technology, and explore program growth.

2nd Story

2nd Story creates spaces where people can share and deeply listen to one another’s stories. While 2nd Story has paid all its artists small stipends for over a decade, 2nd Story committed to a multi-year pay-equity campaign in August 2020. The grant will help 2nd Story develop a framework for achieving pay equity for artists and arts administrators, including three-year financial forecasting to accomplish a minimum pay rate of $25 an hour without jeopardizing organizational stability.

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photo by: Michael Brosilow

A.B.L.E. - Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations

A.B.L.E. provides performing arts opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). A majority of A.B.L.E.'s 40 ensemble members will be over age 22 in 2022, an age when services decline sharply for adults with I/DD. The grant will support the Supporting Artist Program. A.B.L.E. will train and employ veteran ensemble members as teaching assistants for our outreach efforts and workshops for younger children with disabilities both virtually and in person. In addition to sharing their performance expertise, the artists will gain transferable job skills like communication, leadership, adaptability, and collaboration.

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photo by: Joe Mazza (Brave Lux)

Definition Theatre Company

Definition Theatre is a culturally diverse theater dedicated to telling stories about and created with underrepresented communities in Chicago. In 2019, Definition received a Neighborhood Opportunities Grant to develop a theater and business incubator in Woodlawn. It is partnering with 37 Oaks and Promise Holdings to provide space, resources, educational commerce courses, and capital for Black and Brown entrepreneurs. The grant will support an entrepreneur development program for artists that will include access to Definition's patrons and the ability to get their products in a pop-up shop set in the lobby.

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Links Hall

Links Hall is an arts incubator that provides time, space, and financial support to develop and present new work. The grant supports a Performance Practice Learning Lab, bringing together dancers, musicians, puppeteers, filmmakers, media artists, production designers, directors, and theater-makers to explore ways to collaborate and produce performance work across space and location and advance performance potential using film and live stream technologies.

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Open the Circle

Open The Circle engages young people in Chicago Footwork, a style of African American dance and music developed by young people living in immediate proximity to some of American society's greatest problems. The Era Footwork Crew is an artist collective founded by footwork battle dancers on the South Side of Chicago. The grant will assist the two organizations in developing a shared platform that links community engagement, dance education, and contemporary performing arts.

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Puerto Rican Arts Alliance

The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (PRAA) offers arts experiences and arts-based educational programs grounded in Puerto Rican traditions. As PRAA moves to re-open the Latin Music Project Center, doing so will not be as simple as "turning on a switch" and starting where the program left off pre-pandemic. The grant will provide PRAA with additional resources to reengage the community and audiences while transitioning back to full operations.

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Soft Cage Films

Soft Cage Films is a radical, non-profit multimedia production company in Chicago that makes work that challenges oppressive systems, combats harmful narratives, and amplifies voices for progressive social change. During the pandemic, Soft Cage created a new virtual initiative: the filmmakers Q&A series. The series showcased challenging films as a means of sparking vital conversations with the community. The grant supports the expansion of this program by forming a programming committee, led by three Black and queer women, to select filmmakers and to produce six new Q&A events, now titled “The Committee of Uncomfortable Conversations.” The committee will explore how to virtually uplift and showcase the work of bold local filmmakers while engaging the community directly in discussions on critical themes.

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South Chicago Dance Theatre

South Chicago Dance Theatre performs and teaches dance through a repertoire that fuses classical and contemporary dance styles with historic dance work. The social and political climate, alongside the pandemic, has left many of the people the organization serves in a vulnerable mental and emotional state. The grant will support the organization in building more trauma-informed approaches to dance education and develop ways to use the choreographic process as a means of healing.

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Still Point Theatre Collective

Still Point Theatre Collective works with women who are incarcerated or released, using the tools of theater-making to inspire compassion, raise crucial social justice issues, and reduce the stigmas associated with incarceration and disability. The grant will help Still Point revise its prison-based theater program in light of COVID and its impact on women within the carceral system.

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Theatre Y

Theater Y creates intersections between diverse artists seeking mutual growth through collaboration. The grant will support The Emerald Necklace Camino Project, a celebration for Chicagoans re-emerging out of COVID-19. The ambulatory performance aims to forge new bonds through partnerships with approximately 80 artists and community leaders in 11 neighborhoods hit hardest by the COVID virus. The experience will be documented by Worldview Solutions, Berlin-based Nigerian photographer Akinbode Akinbiyi, and Out of Eden Chicago/National Geographic.

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True Star Media & Foundation

True Star is a media company and digital agency led by youth. True Star provides training and real-world work experience to youth that teaches them how to develop, create, and market digital content on a platform that empowers them to forge their own paths. Before COVID, True Star was exploring how it could leverage technology to grow its program and reach more youth. COVID forced True Star to test the virtual learning experience it had already been exploring. This grant will help True Star launch True Star U, a digital learning platform. The platform will offer pre-recorded lessons and activities, a platform for peer-to-peer learning, live lessons with master teachers, and ongoing regular instruction.

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