A mural in Chicago, Illinois (David Hilowitz/Flickr)

Chicago will distribute about $2.5 million in grants to local artists and art organizations, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) announced.

The city launched a new Artist Response Program on Monday, January 11, which will provide $750,000 to art that “responds to recent health, economic and humanitarian crises.” Of these, $500,000 will fund up to 10 public art commissions. The remaining $250,000 will support smaller local projects through local grantmakers. In addition, the annual CityArts Program, which opened yesterday, January 19, will award $1.7 million in grants to nonprofit arts organizations throughout Chicago.

“Our city is facing a critical moment in its history, as the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified systemic racism and disinvestment on our South and West sides and caused us to rethink and reignite our efforts to address these issues,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This has presented us with a unique opportunity to not only rebuild our city with the values of equity and inclusion in mind, but also document this journey with art projects designed to engage residents in dialogue, reflection and action.”

The Artist Response Program is now accepting proposals for public art commissions with budgets ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. The projects can be in any discipline or medium, including a physical artwork, the transformation of spaces or objects, or an activity or cultural event. Community-based projects which address public safety, equity, and access through art will be prioritized. That also includes proposals to activate, repair, or rebuild spaces on the South and West sides of Chicago or activate Chicago communities and institutions to address broader social issues, opportunities, and challenges, according to the DCASE.

The new program will also provide $250,000 for three to five regranting partners to distribute grants of $1,000 to $10,000 to artist projects designed to “engage residents in dialogue, reflection, and action.” Last year, the DCASE collaborated with Arts Alliance Illinois, 3Arts, Arts Work Fund, and private donors to create the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, which distributed relief grants to workers, organizations, and businesses in the creative industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These regranting partners are “better positioned to respond quickly to crises and the complex needs of individual communities and neighborhoods,” said the DCASE’s statement.

The Artist Response Program application closes on February 5, while the CityArts grant application deadline is March 13 (both applications close at 5pm CST). More information is available at chicagoculturalgrants.org.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...