GUIDELINES – Chicago Region Artistic Vitality

We support over 170 small, professional arts organizations of all disciplines. We provide general operations grants and an array of other kinds of support to help our arts partners sustain their artistry and strengthen their operations. Please review our strategy and eligibility requirements below.


To Value Small Arts Organizations
The ecosystem of arts in the Chicago region is big and diverse, yet most nonprofit arts groups operate on small budgets. Together, small arts groups produce most of the art in our region. They reach beyond downtown into nearly every neighborhood. They ensure a perpetual wellspring of new and emerging talent. They challenge. They risk. They fail. They try again. They blow us away.


Many small arts groups – especially the smallest of the small – tend to have fewer options for grants. That’s why we make it our business to support professional arts groups, of all disciplines, that operate on less than $1 million per year.


To Support With Few Restrictions
Unrestricted general operating grants are the life blood of small arts groups, big or small. It allows them the flexibility to spend those dollars where they see fit. Multi-year general operating support provides an extra measure of stability.


To Grow Stronger
It takes training, discipline and often years of experience to master one’s art. Just as challenging, just as important, is mastering the art of running an arts organization. Stronger, more efficient operations tend to allow more time, attention and resources to go toward the art itself. We support the Arts Work Fund and several other technical assistance providers to help organizations grow stronger.



  • You must be a 501(c)(3) public charity. We do not make grants through fiscal sponsors or agents.
  • You must be in compliance with your Secretary of State.
  • Your organization’s total annual expenses must be under $1 million.
  • You must have completed at least one full fiscal year of operations and one full production season before applying.
  • You must demonstrate or strongly promise artistic vitality. We take into account how much programming an organization offers and the degree of professionalism, factoring in the artistic discipline, budget size and where an organization happens to be in its evolution.
  • We must see your work before we can consider a grant. Please contact us at 312-977-2700 as soon as you know your performance schedule and let us know that you’re planning to apply.


The following are not eligible:

  • Individuals.
  • Organizations primarily focused on arts education or social service.
  • Amateur or community arts groups.
  • Presenting organizations.
  • Stand-alone or one-time festivals, conferences, or other events.
  • Stand-alone publications, films/videos, or websites.
  • Religious activities, political campaigns, or legislative lobbying.
  • Endowments, capital campaigns, or debt reduction.
  • Groups that are legally, financially, or operationally part of a larger institution, e.g. the art department of a college.

Organizations are eligible for grant amounts based on annual expenses for the most recently-completed calendar or fiscal year:

    • Annual Expenses
    • Up to $25,000*
    • $25,000 – $50,000
    • $50,000 – $100,000
    • $100,000 – $200,000
    • $200,000 – $300,000
    • $300,000 – $500,000
    • $500,000 – $750,000
    • $750,000 – $1Million

    • Grant Amount
    • $2,000
    • $3,500
    •  $5,500
    • $6,500
    • $7,500
    • $8,500
    • $9,500
    • $10,500


Your complete proposal must be submitted online by 11:59pm Central Time on

  • March 29, 2019 for review at our July 2019 board meeting
  • July 26, 2019 for review at our November 2019 board meeting

It takes about four months from grant application deadline through board decision. After the board meeting, you’ll hear from us within a couple weeks.


You’ll be directed to our online grant system to choose and start an application and create a login and password, so you can save and return to your work at any time.

Before you apply:  

  • We must see your work before we can consider a grant. Please contact us at 312-977-2700 as soon as you know your performance schedule and let us know that you’re planning to apply.
  • Start working on your DataArts profile.
  • If you’re an arts service organization or technical assistance provider that we haven’t previously funded, please contact Ellen Placey Wadey, Senior Program Officer, before starting an application.

Current Grantees

Looking for more information about reporting, PRIs, technical assistance, and other tools? Check out the Current Grantees page.


For questions about your eligibility or content questions about your proposal, please contact Ellen Wadey, Senior Program Officer.

For questions about the application form or process, please contact Clover Morell, Program Associate.