Creative Organizations

The Arts Work Fund is a funder collaborative created to help strengthen the management and operations of small arts and cultural organizations in Chicago and Cook County.

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Think through a question, analyze challenges and opportunities, and develop plans or small tests of change

About Think Grants

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Test and implement fully developed ideas with resources to support creativity and risk-taking

About Explore Grants

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Forget grant reports. Strengthen the community through genuine sharing of lessons learned—failures and triumphs

More About Sharing

Adapt to Change. Address Challenges. Focus on Equity.

Think • Explore • Share offers grants to enable arts organizations - or collaborative groups of arts organizations - to change operational and/or artistic practices to meet a changing arts environment.

These adaptation grants are intended to give organizations room to plan for (THINK) and test and enact (EXPLORE) shifts in organizational structure, operations, and/or financial practices. The grants are intended not for ongoing and regular operational costs but to help organizations redefine key partnerships, address longstanding challenges, navigate critical organizational transitions, and build a foundation of resilience to ensure they can effectively meet their missions.

Who’s Eligible to Apply?

  • Arts organizations led by, for, and about black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), with operating expenses of $2 million and below.
  • Any arts and culture organization with operating expenses of $800,000 and below.

Grant Size

  • Think Grants – up to $20,000 and Explore Grants – up to $30,000 for arts organizations led by, for, and about BIPOC, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and women.
  • Think Grants – up to $15,000 and Explore Grants – up to $25,000 for all other eligible organizations.

Our goal is to allocate 65% of all grants to organizations led by, for, and about BIPOC communities.

Upcoming Application Deadlines:

May 15, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. CT -- decision in July

August 15, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. CT -- decision in October

Grant Guidelines

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AWF Connect Listserv: A Supportive Community of Over 500 Organizations

AWF Connect is a discussion list specifically geared for the arts community. Members of the AWF Connect list include: seasoned arts administrators, funders of the arts, artists, and other amazingly talented folks in the arts community.

Join the Conversation

Recent Articles

AWF Pod: Lights Camera Harm with OTV | Open Television

2nd Story's Artistic Director Amanda Delheimer joins Elijah McKinnon from OTV. Listen...

AWF Pod: Pushing Past "No" and Building Career Foundations for Artists with Black Alphabet

2nd Story's Artistic Director Amanda Delheimer joins Adam McMath from Black Alphabet discusses their current project Rebuilding Our Chicago. Read More...

On Site: Bridging The Gap: A Conversation with About Face Theatre

2nd Story's Artistic Director Amanda Delheimer joins Logan Jones and Kirsten Baity from About Face Theatre for the premiere episode of the AWF Podcast. Listen...

Recap: A.B.L.E. Creative Associates

A.B.L.E. - Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations on launching The Creative Associates initiative Read More...

Recap: Walls Turned Sideways

The Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project shares the outcomes of community-based research designed to imagine and create an art gallery + community center dedicated to artists and communities impacted by incarceration. Read More...

On Topic: Building a Thriving Teaching Artist Community While Surviving a Pandemic

AWF Interviewing Alicia Vega and Joanne Vena from Changing Worlds Read More...

On Site: Becoming an Anti-Racist Company

AWF Interviewing Tara Mallen: Founder & Artistic Director, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Read More...

On Site: Longterm Artist Development Through Shorts

AWF Interviewing Eugene Park : Executive Director - Full Spectrum Features Read More...

In Conversation: Addressing Trauma and Healing in Arts Nonprofits

A conversation with three AWF grantees working to provide holistic supports and address trauma within their communities. Read More...

Emergency Relief Fund

From the beginning, it was clear that COVID-19 would have a devastating impact on the arts and cultural sectors and that Arts Work Fund needed to pivot to provide unrestricted, immediate support to arts organizations as they grappled with the fallout. In short order, a robust collaborative was formed between Arts Work Fund, 3Arts, Arts Alliance Illinois, the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, the local philanthropic community, and individual donors. Called the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, Arts Alliance Illinois administered the fund, 3Arts leveraged its expertise to make grants available to artists, and the Arts Work Fund focused on grants to nonprofit arts organizations. Read More...

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Reaching Forward

Throughout 2019, the Arts Work Fund AWF partnered with 21 African American, Latinx, Arab American, Asian American, and Native American arts leaders to co-design a new grant program and refine our grantmaking criteria and processes. COVID-19 interrupted the launch of our new grant program as we shifted to respond to emergency relief efforts. But we have instituted the grant making refinements that emerged from this process. Read More...

Grantee Voices