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Bringing the MacArthur Funds for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation (MacArthur-Driehaus) to a close had complex implications. This 20-year partnership provided grants to hundreds of smaller organizations – including 187 in 2022, the program’s final year. Both partners understood that it had the potential to be challenging for some grantees. However, concluding the partnership also created an opportunity for the Driehaus Foundation to evolve our relationship with grantees that we were in a position to support after MacArthur-Driehaus sunsetted. We named this special, one-time opportunity “On Ramp.”

All 2022 MacArthur-Driehaus grantees were invited to present a case for funding eligibility with the Driehaus Foundation’s separate, long-standing Arts and Culture and Built Environment programs. (Both have different requirements than MacArthur-Driehaus did.) We wanted to make On Ramp simple and expeditious without compromising the careful consideration any grantseeker receives. It didn’t result in a guarantee of future funding, but it did result in an invitation to apply for support. Of the 187 MacArthur-Driehaus grantees, 77 opted to take advantage of this special opportunity.

“The On Ramp process was remarkably helpful for us,” says Adam Zanolini, PhD, Elastic Arts Foundation Executive Director. “Not only did it let us know about this funding opportunity we might have overlooked, but it helped us to see our organization in a new way – not only as a performing arts presenter and venue, but as a service organization – and to acknowledge the value of the many services we provide to our diverse creative community.”

One particularly valuable component of On Ramp planning was creating an advisory group of six MacArthur-Driehaus grantees to help us think through key aspects of what we had a mind. This group ended up having a significant influence on several aspects of the On Ramp process and results. For example, the On Ramp eligibility form was as far as reasonably possible from what one of them characterized as “death by a thousand paragraphs.” Instead, our form was simple and short – just two narrative sections and a 1,000-word maximum.

Driehaus program officers then had one-on-one conversations in January-February 2023 with every organization that submitted an eligibility form. Organizations had the option to revise and resubmit their forms after that. A team of six Driehaus staff then worked together to review these 77 organizations’ cases for eligibility.

We announced decisions in April 2023, indicating which of three coming application deadlines a group could apply for. Thirty-seven organizations met eligibility guidelines.

The first application cycle concluded in November 2023, and 13 groups received funding:

Chicago Dance History Project

Chicago Dancemakers Forum

Chicago Tap Theatre

Elastic Arts Foundation

Floating Museum

Full Spectrum Features

The Guild Complex


Live The Spirit Residency

MAKE Literary Productions

Mandala South Asian Performing Arts

Red Clay Dance Company

Another 22 former MacArthur-Driehaus grantees will receive funding decisions in April and July 2024.

The Driehaus Foundation has made $455,000 in grants to new Arts and Culture grantees through the special, one-time On Ramp opportunity thus far and expects to award over $500,000 more. And while the average award to a MacArthur-Driehaus grantee in 2022 was $10,900, we anticipate first-time Arts and Culture grants to these groups to average $31,700 – nearly three times higher.

Executive Director Anne Lazar shared, “The Foundation is pleased to welcome these organizations into the Driehaus Arts and Culture program. We are energized by the evolution of these relationships and celebrate the grantees’ exciting work.”

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