ArtsChicago Arts AdministrationChicago Arts and CultureMusic

Foundation Expedites $3M in Grants to Arts Organizations in Chicago and South Carolina

Acknowledging the potentially cataclysmic financial situation which hundreds of beloved regional small arts organizations are facing, the Board of the Chicago-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (the Foundation) has unanimously voted to immediately put in place a series of funding mechanisms, including expediting a total of $2 million in general operating funds to its current roster of 175 arts grantees in the Chicago region and 40 in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  The nearly 70-year old foundation currently supports these small arts nonprofits with an array of ongoing organizational development opportunities in addition to multi-year general operating grants (vs. program-specific). These gen op grants range from $2,500 to $13,500 annually, for Chicago organizations with budgets under $1 million, and $5,000 to $25,000 annually, for Lowcountry organizations.  Grantees will receive July 2020 payments by May 1, and November payments by June 1, and the typically requisite reporting requirements have been relaxed.   

Arts organizations served by the foundation range in practice from performance-based to visual arts and cultural preservation and collections; among those receiving expedited funds include:

  • 6018 North, Chicago’s home for experimental arts & culture: “We are paying creatives to create, including online programming, hosting weekly self-help zoom meetings with counselors and healers, and presenting Windows To the World – a new exhibition in 6018North’s windows for artists and neighbors to collectively envision how we want to transform the world post-COVID-19.” (Tricia Van Eck, Artistic Director)
  • eta Creative Arts Foundation, a cultural resource for the preservation, perpetuation and promulgation of the African American aesthetic (Chicago): “During a crisis like this, people turn to the arts more than ever for relief and sanctuary. We are grateful to be honored with the funding support which will help us pay actors, musicians, comics, and dancers to provide virtual performances.” (Kai EL’Zabar, Executive Director)

In addition to expediting individual grants to existing foundation grantees, the foundation has contributed $200,000 to the recently-announced Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, providing unrestricted grants from $6,000 to $30,000 for groups to be administered by the Arts Work Fund; created an initial $100,000 Lowcountry Arts Emergency Fund to be administered by the foundation; and seeded a $200,000 relief fund for small collecting organizations in both regions, providing public access to regionally-focused collections.  And looking ahead to grantees’ future financial needs, the foundation will continue its ongoing Cash Reserve Challenge offering arts organizations in both the regions it serves the opportunity to receive up to $25,000 in matching funds to assist with maintaining a cash reserve.

“At this time, the most urgent need is in the arts and culture sector, uniquely affected among non-profits with venues closed and artists unable to supplement their creative work with their usual additional part-time work,” said David Farren, executive director of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.  “Based on our ongoing relationship with our grantees, it’s clear that the smallest of these organizations are especially hard hit, and there was no question that we would step up to get them the funds they need now, when they need it.”

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  The Foundation supplies multiyear general operating support for the majority of its grants; provides value in addition to dollars, including technical assistance support, sponsoring convenings, informal coachings and scholarships for conferences and other organizational development opportunities;  and establishes a number of touchpoints with grantees throughout the grant cycle.

For more information on the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, visit