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Artists are problem solvers. They have big ideas. They are risk-takers. Imagination runs deep. But financial resources for the time, space, and specialized support to solve creative challenges, whether programmatic or managerial, are often in short supply. 

Arts Work Fund's new Think • Explore • Share funding initiative aims to make a dent in the financial part of our local cultural community's problem-solving endeavors. These grants enable arts groups to develop and test possible solutions to challenges posed by COVID-19 or challenges that hampered their organizations before the pandemic – for example, racial inequities and declining ticket sales. 

Its first round of funding went to 23 organizations. Among the innovative projects that received funding were:

  • Full Spectrum Features, in collaboration with Northwest Film Forum (Seattle, WA) and The Luminal Theater (Brooklyn, NY), will test a new model for supporting and compensating historically marginalized filmmakers. Using a short film series from six emerging Black filmmakers that will be screened throughout the country in 2021, the partners will pilot an exhibition and professional development program that provides participating filmmakers with profit-sharing and collaboration and educational opportunities tailored to their individual needs. The hope is that this pilot will serve as a model for other arts organizations as they pursue greater equity in their relationships with artists.
  • Kuumba Lynx is committed to art-making centered on healing trauma through Hip Hop Arts. This grant will support the initial development of a new component of Kuumba Lynx's work: The Healing Arts Center. The Center will take a holistic approach to healing by combining restorative and health practices with artistic creation and expression. Wellness activities will target artists from across the city, Kuumba Lynx youth, and the community to address the trauma caused by racism, sexism, institutional violence, community violence, and now, COVID-19.  
  •  Lawyers for the Creative Arts responded quickly to the COVID-related legal needs of individual artists and arts organizations. This grant will help the organization as it designs its new Distressed Theater Workout Program. The program will assist performing arts organizations in their efforts to survive the lengthy period of COVID-related loss of earned income. 
  • Teatro Vista is dedicated to nurturing and presenting voices that explore the wealth and variety of the human experience from a Latinx perspective. The grant will enable Teatro Vista time to rethink its management, organization, and leadership structure. The company sees the pause in programming imposed by COVID-19 as an opportunity to reimagine the organization's structure from one of hierarchy to one of ecology.

Two more rounds of Think • Explore • Share funding are still to come. The next application deadline is December 30, 2020, followed by a March 30, 2021 deadline.    

Arts Work Fund is a funder collaborative that helps strengthen small arts and cultural organizations' management and operations in the Chicago area. The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has been an Arts Work Fund partner since 2007. 

Visit for more information.

Image description: Three contour illustrations. On the left is the profile of a woman’s head. One blue and one red intersecting circle appear to be hovering inside her head. Below it is the word “Think.” In the middle is the figure of a person who appears to be bouncing one large blue and one large red ball. The word “Explore” is below it. On the right is a hand with palm up. Resting in the palm is a clear ball. Two blue and three red intersecting circles are inside the clear ball. Below it is the word “Share.”

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