In August and September 2022, the Arts and Culture team at the Driehaus Foundation brought together leaders from six Chicago-based nonprofits. This advisory group met twice as part of the Foundation’s preparation for the sunset of our 20-year grantmaking partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The organizations these advisors represented are diverse in their artistic practices, based in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, and had received general operating support through the MacArthur Funds for Culture, Equity, and Arts at the Driehaus Foundation for periods ranging from one to 17 years. Some of these advisors brought with them decades of experience working in the city’s cultural sector while others were earlier in their leadership journeys. The Foundation felt strongly that both perspectives were valuable.
Part of our engagement with this advisory group focused on how we might provide current MacArthur-Driehaus grantees something timely and, ideally, of lasting value within a unique set of circumstances. We understood that the partnership sunset would occur amidst a number of other changes in the local arts funding landscape. Because the MacArthur-Driehaus program, from its outset, was designed for Chicago’s smaller arts nonprofits, we expected that many grantees had limited time and resources to explore funding opportunities that were new (or new to them). We also knew many would be ineligible to apply for a different type of grant from the Driehaus Foundation. We heard that networking among these organizations’ workers had been a challenge, to say the least, for more than two years due to the pandemic. During a period of rapid change and general instability, news and actionable information had been moving through the sector more slowly than usual. These conditions provided context.
With encouragement from the advisory group, we decided last fall to address these issues with a convening open to all 187 organizations that received MacArthur-Driehaus grants in the partnership’s final year. The number of grantees meant we needed to limit in-person attendance to one representative per group but, through a live webcast produced by VAM Studio, additional board and staff members were welcome to participate online. Our advisors’ recommendations led us to bookend the event’s program with ample, unstructured time for networking and to leave a full hour on the clock for in-person and online attendees’ questions for our panelists: Erin Harkey, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Richard Tran, Arts Program Officer at the Field Foundation of Illinois; and Ellen Placey Wadey, Program Director for Chicago Art and Collections at the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, who also facilitated the discussion. (Marcia Festen, Director of Arts Work Fund, was scheduled to participate but unfortunately unable to attend.)
On April 26, a total of 129 individuals participated in person at Epiphany Center for the Arts or online via Zoom, representing 110 grantee organizations. More than 100 have viewed the video online over the past month. We’re pleased to now share this convening content more broadly; click here to view the funder conversation and Q&A on YouTube. Captions can be enabled directly in the video player using the button marked “CC.” The video’s total running time is just under two hours.
As a postscript, producing this convening was a valuable learning opportunity for the Driehaus Foundation because it was our first hybrid event (i.e., one that involved both in-person and online participants). Foundation staff applied strategies for audience accessibility and hybrid programming from a five-session professional development training series, also designed for MacArthur-Driehaus grantees and led by Hoopla Communications in summer 2022.
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