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Earlier this year, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) announced increased funding to local nonprofit arts organizations of all sizes. The CityArts Program will distribute $6 million in 2022, an increase of more than 250% in funds from last year, for general operating support and project grants to Chicago-based arts and culture-focused nonprofit organizations. DCASE will award two-hundred general operating grants ranging from $10,000 - $50,000 and 5 to 20 project grants ranging from $5,000 - $100,000 in July 2022.

This investment is part of a larger initiative called the Chicago Recovery Plan, which aims to provide the local arts sector with the stability it needs to thrive. What follows is how DCASE is playing a crucial role in revitalizing Chicago’s arts vibrancy through its increased investment in arts organizations.

Arts Vibrancy, as defined by SMU DataArts, encompasses a complex and interdependent set of relationships among: 1) artists and arts organizations; 2) their communities; and 3) government funding that influences the production and consumption of arts and culture. The symbiotic relationship between arts organizations and their communities cannot be overlooked as a new post-pandemic reality sets in. Most importantly, the government’s role in this model sets a precedent for other funders to follow.

Considering the grander arts and culture landscape of Chicago through the post-pandemic lens, many arts organizations have struggled to endure the turbulent financial climate. A recent study by SMU DataArts takes a closer look at the advantages of unrestricted contributed revenue in helping these organizations meet their financial needs. The study concludes that organizations with small to mid-size budgets, particularly those that are racial equity groups, relied more heavily on unrestricted funds to cover expenses.

Prior to announcing its increase in funding, DCASE worked with Bloomberg Associates to conduct in-depth research through SMU DataArts to understand how investments to increase arts vibrancy might be directed in the communities they serve, given existing strengths and opportunities for improvement.

DCASE is redirecting its funding model, one that is essential to geographically-dispersed grantmaking, to consider the southwest side and south side, and organizations that are by, for, and about communities of color. Arts vibrant cultural resources in these Chicago neighborhoods are in dire need of attention, providing a strong case to expand and equitably distribute DCASE’s increase in public funding.

For arts organizations recovering from the heavy socioeconomic toll during the pandemic, now more than ever, DCASE’s increase in general operating funding aligns with other civic investments to revitalize Chicago’s arts and culture landscape that positively impacts the quality of life in Chicago. “In 2022, with additional funds — including a transformational increase in our Cultural Grants budget from $2.7 million to $20.7 million — and our operating budget being largely restored to pre-pandemic levels, I’m thrilled that DCASE is now poised to serve the needs of Chicago’s vital arts community this year and well into the future,” said DCASE Commissioner Erin Harkey.

CityArts is part of DCASE’s Chicago Cultural Grants Program. For more information, please visit

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