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General operating grants give organizations autonomy and flexibility to decide how funds will best benefit their organization. Arts Work Fund’s new grant program, Thrive, will provide three-year general operating grants to Chicago area arts and culture organizations. Its goal is to create opportunities for advancement and sustainability by providing a runway for stability to community-rooted arts groups.

To be eligible, organizations must: A.) have a mission and primary purpose that supports artists and the production and presentation of art; and B.) intentionally reflect and serve the priorities of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, or people with disabilities, and those at the intersection of these identities.

The new grant program prioritizes organizations that practice and promote:

  • Artistic and cultural focus
  • Community rootedness and relevance
  • Interconnectedness
  • Self-determination and leadership

Organizations will have two chances to apply for Thrive grants this year. Applications are now open for the first cycle. The deadline to submit is Sunday, March 19, 2023.

For eligibility information and how to apply, visit

Arts Work Fund is hosting two virtual information sessions about Thrive:

Session 1: February 21, 2023, 03:00 PM Central Time

Click here to register

Session 2: March 6, 2023, 10:00 AM Central Time

Click here to register

Thrive was created through a participatory process with a 12-member Design Team. The Design Team was comprised of people with direct and varied experience in the types of arts nonprofits that this grant program seeks to support to help ensure the program would be meaningful. The Thrive Design Team identified four values to guide the creation and implementation of the program: 1) Sustenance and Sustainability, 2) Connection and Wholeness, 3) Transparency and Mutuality, and 4) Accessibility and Inclusivity.

Grantees of Thrive will join a cohort and will not be required to submit a report on the use of funds. The unrestricted nature of this program will enable a shift from a typical funding relationship where a grantmaker “monitors and evaluates” the grantee to one oriented towards mutual learning. The cohorts will meet twice yearly throughout the grant cycle for resource sharing, learning, and potential collaboration.

The learning cohorts are also an opportunity for the Arts Work Fund to learn and share new ways of looking at arts organizations’ vitality beyond the traditional measures of ticket sales and critical reviews. “I am thankful for the Design Team and Steering Committee members, who gave so much of their time, intelligence and passion to creating this grant program. This program is an opportunity for a cohort of organizations and AWF funders to learn how community-rooted arts organizations advance their work,” says Marcia Festen, Director at Arts Work Fund.

Arts Work Fund is a funding collaborative designed to help strengthen the management and operation of small arts organizations in the Chicago area. The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has been an Arts Work Fund partner since its inception in 2007.

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