ArtsChicago Arts and Culture

City of Chicago Awards $2M in CityArts Grants to Arts and Arts Institutions

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) have announced the recipients of the 2020 CityArts Program grants. Each year, the CityArts Program encourages Chicago-based arts and culture-focused organizations of all sizes to attain artistic excellence and financial stability by making general operating grants across all artistic disciplines. This year, the program is awarding general operating grants between $2,000 to $30,000 – and special project grants ranging from $2,500 to $56,200 – to 191 nonprofit organizations for a total of $2 million. The project grants are being awarded in alignment with the Year of Chicago Music, now continuing through 2021.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is devastating the creative sector, and the need is tremendous,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “In these very challenging times, the City of Chicago is supporting its local arts organizations through the CityArts Program, other cultural grant programs and the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund. Still, we hope that other public and private sources of funding step up to ensure the sector’s immediate and long-term viability.”

DCASE has more than doubled its grants in general operating expenses – unrestricted funds that may be used however the grantee wishes – over the last four years, in recognition that these are increasingly critical for nonprofit organizations to carry out their missions.  Further, to make more impactful grants to arts organizations during this time of need, the number of general operating grants made through this program has increased by 25% over 2019 and the average general operating grant amount has increased by 20%. These increases were made possible in part by a $250,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This grant contributes funds to the CityArts Program for distribution to local nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

The 2020 CityArts Program project grants are awarded in alignment with the City’s Year of Chicago Music to strengthen Chicago’s music landscape – one of the most influential music communities on the globe – to highlight its legacy, expand its audience and grow its capacity. Funded projects include audience development and marketing strategies for Chicago musicians and music organizations; initiatives that are documenting, celebrating and preserving Chicago’s unique musical legacy; and innovative programs that could serve as replicable models for the industry. Examples of the organizations supported through project grants include Arts & Business Council of Chicago in partnership with Chicago Reader (Chicago Music Website), Arts Alliance Illinois in partnership with 2112 and CCE (Chicago License Local Initiative), Asian Improv aRts Midwest (Archiving Chicago’s Asian American Jazz & Creative Music Collaborations) and the Black Ensemble Theater (Black Ensemble Intercultural Music Festival). 

Mayor Lightfoot is committed to supporting Chicago’s rich arts and culture community and last fall announced a $1 million increase in City funding for the DCASE Cultural Grants Program, bringing the total budget to $2.7 million. This increased budget fulfills a commitment to prioritize equitable grantmaking and microfinancing to individual artists, organizations and arts corridors throughout Chicago, particularly in communities of need. 

Earlier this year, the City of Chicago and DCASE also announced 158 project-based Individual Artists Program grants ranging from $850 to $5,000 — to resident Chicago artists across all artistic disciplines including film & media arts, literary arts, performing arts (theatre/dance), music and visual arts/design. Additionally, 13 high-qualified artists received the Esteemed Artist Award, a special new $10,000 grant for expenses associated with an artist’s practice, such as studio rental, supplies, travel and equipment.

The City of Chicago has also partnered with the State of Illinois, Arts Alliance Illinois and the broader philanthropic community to provide financial relief to workers and organizations in the creative industries impacted by COVID-19. Since its launch in April 2020, the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund has awarded well over $5 million to 1,460 artists and 233 organizations across the state. The fund is administered by Arts Alliance Illinois in partnership with 3Arts and Arts Work Fund, long-standing and trusted service organizations and grantmakers.

In addition to this important relief fund, Arts Alliance Illinois’s COVID Relief Policy Agenda for the Arts is demanding stronger federal support for nonprofits and small businesses, especially in communities of color; continuation of expanded unemployment benefits; increased incentives for charitable giving; and federal assistance in offsetting state and local revenue shortfalls. For details, visit

Since 1984, the Cultural Grants Program has served as a catalyst to foster a robust, healthy arts community where artists, non-profit arts and culture and creative industries thrive. For more information, please visit