2022 Year End Notes

Executive Director’s Note

I’m pleased to share from the entire staff and board year-end gratitude for the perseverance and thoughtful, impactful efforts of our 300 grantees and many philanthropic partners. This has been a challenging year navigating Covid resurgences, staff goings and comings, back to office rhythms, a rocky economy and continued political polarization. Nevertheless, many bright spots highlight how our diverse mission areas are centered in the communities of our two regions.

The past three years have been incredibly difficult for performing arts organizations, many who are just now returning to production. But ever resilient, arts organizations have adapted and invented throughout the pandemic, including outdoor and digital performances. Through GDDF’s ongoing practice of dialogue with arts leaders, we are working with the field to imagine and map the path forward for these important organizations that bring so much to the quality of our lives.

Our collections’ strategy, Broadening Narratives, entered its second year. We continue to receive exciting applications from a wide range of organizations that are passionate about telling stories that have been previously overlooked. We remain inspired by the diverse array of projects led by the multiple communities that comprise our two regions.

In land conservation, the value of nature to human communities has been underscored in many ways. Covid has reminded us of the importance of outdoor spaces for recreation, reflection and refuge. And the deluge of news about flooding, hurricanes and wildfires across the world has underscored the importance of valuing natural systems to help buffer and adapt to climate change. In each of our regions we achieved major victories on public funding for land conservation totaling over a billion dollars, underscoring the public’s support for nature in community and the critical role foundations can play in taking risks and finding opportunities for leverage.

Another important theme has been promoting increased diversity through ongoing internal work and support for grantees. I am particularly proud of our Lowcountry Land Conservation Symposium, a day-long exploration of equity challenges and opportunities in the conservation field. The Foundation will continue to support efforts in both regions across all our mission areas.

An additional cause for celebration is the continued progress we are making in aligning our endowment investments with our values. This includes new investments in mission-aligned sustainability and restoration opportunities and engaging with diverse investment fund managers.

Grantmaking Overview

Land Conservation

In 2022, the Foundation awarded 24 new grants totaling $1,882,500. In addition, through its participation in the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund, a private-public funder collaborative, the Foundation contributed to an additional six grants totaling over $1.7 million to restore and protect wildlife habitat, reduce stormwater through green infrastructure, and improve access to communities in the Chicago-Calumet region. Additional highlights include support for technical assistance and public education leading up to bond referenda resulting in $1 billion over 25 years to support the Cook County Forest Preserves, and nearly $200 million for 3 coastal SC counties ranging from over two to 15 years.

Chi-Cal funders and partners visiting the recent groundbreaking of Robbins Stormwater Park and Midlothian Creek restoration project on Oct. 26, 2022, made possible from a previous Chi-Cal grant.













The Foundation launched its revised Lowcountry land conservation strategy in early 2022 and continues to build on the revised Chicago land conservation strategy that began in 2021. New priority lenses of watershed health and climate resiliency – in addition to policy advocacy and inclusive conservation strategies – are shaping the Foundation’s funding and engagement in the field. Notable examples include the Foundation’s recent grant to place a State Revolving Fund coordinator in the greater Chicago area to work alongside conservation and municipal partners to develop a pipeline of nature-based infrastructure projects and leverage significant federal conservation dollars. In the Lowcountry, a variety of philanthropic support, including from the Foundation, culminated in the May 2022 release of South Carolina’s Black River Water Trail Park Network Master Plan, which will guide new land protection, park amenities and community access, and improved watershed health and resiliency for the region.

In addition, the Foundation sponsored equity training for land conservation organizations across both regions with over 100 participants in attendance. The Foundation is also leading continued work with other funders support for Gullah Geechee communities.

Artistic Vitality



In 2022, Chicago Artistic Vitality awarded 185 organizations a total of $1,881,975 in grants, with an additional $115,000 awarded to seven groups for cash reserves. The Foundation welcomed two new groups to the portfolio in November: Soham Dance Project and Chicago Poetry Center. Soham Dance Project provides a home for creative practice, live performance, and community gatherings, and is dedicated to centering experimental voices of South Asian, Black, and LBGTQ+ artists. Chicago Poetry Center connects people with poetry and equitably engages poets with communities by fostering creativity and literacy.

In addition to continuing the Foundation’s mission of supporting small arts organizations through multi-year, general operating support, GDDF also remained committed to offering various technical assistance programs throughout 2022. Many organizations took equity trainings facilitated by artEquity, attended webinars on accessibility, and received accounting coaching. A recent DEI/Accessibilty survey sent out in September got a strong response and our team is currently planning what our offerings will be in 2023.

Group discussions with small arts leaders continued throughout the fall of 2022 and the resiliency of small arts organizations in Chicago has never been clearer, as groups work to rebuild following two years of Covid shutdown. Conversations about pay equity, leadership transition, and staff capacity are front and center as leaders work together to create new systems that will sustain the field for years to come.







In 2022, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $570,500 to 40 groups in the Lowcountry. Among them the Foundation welcomed Art Pot as a new arts grantee, a Latinx organization that has an inclusive, community-centric lens and is making efforts to break down barriers through multiracial outreach and partnerships. In addition to the grants awarded this year, the Foundation has launched a three year, $300,000 Lowcountry BIPOC Capacity Building Pool as part of our ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Pool will be available to BIPOC grantee organizations over the next 3 years (2023-2025).

In October, current GDDF grantees met to discuss the state of the arts in the Lowcountry, and it is clear that the last few years have been especially trying for the sector. There is much anticipation for support to return to pre-pandemic levels and it has also been recognized that the arts are in need of a morale boost, and that now may be a time where the focus should be on celebrating small victories, such as having in-person events, to help rebuild community optimism.





In 2022, GDDF made 19 grants totaling $930,500 in the second year of our Broadening Narratives strategy. With our collections’ work centered in bringing forward previously untold, under-told, or incompletely told narratives, we have had the great honor of working with seven new groups including amplifying the story of Atlantic Beach, the only African American beach community on the east coast, supporting oral histories of the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago, and telling the stories of early efforts to equalize education for African Americans with a project led by the C. Williams Rush Museum of African-American Arts & Culture.

Through the many conversations that we have with organizations of every size and discipline, we are helping to excavate the layered stories that help us better understand our complex histories, our multi-faceted communities, and ourselves. Always looking for innovative collaborations, the College of Charleston and five community groups will pilot a backpack oral history project that will offer all the tools, documentation, and equipment needed to conduct oral histories and can be checked out like a library book.

This year, we also partnered with the Terra Foundation for American Art to support a two-year research fellowship at the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC). The research fellow will explore Black visual arts collections at BMRC member institutions, convene arts scholars, curators and archivists with experience working with Black visual arts collections, develop research resources that aid in discovery and use of these collections, and assist the BMRC in targeted outreach to artists who could engage Black archival and historical collections in their practice.

The full list of grants awarded this year in all program areas can be viewed here on our website.

New Staff

Abigail Madden

Abigail Madden has joined our Artistic Vitality team as Associate Program Officer, working with Ellen Placey Wadey to serve our grantee pool across all disciplines here in Chicago. Abigail has deep experience in the non-profit arts world, serving most recently as Managing Director of GDDF grantee A Red Orchid Theater.


Sydney Murphy


Sydney Murphy is our new Administrative and Operations Assistant to work with our Director of Finance and Operations and program team. Sydney will be the first point of contact for grantee inquiries related to our grant application process among other responsibilities. Sydney is a native of the region and has a background in and passion for Chicago’s diverse cultural institutions.


Kara Van Lieu

Kara Van Lieu is GDDF’s new Executive and Board Assistant and supports the work of our Executive Director, David Farren, as well as governance and operations functions. Kara has a 20-year background in the non-profit sector with a focus on development and community engagement.




Best wishes to all for a happy and safe holiday. Please note that our offices will be closed December 24th through January 2nd.


David Farren

Executive Director

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.