Arts for Illinois Relief Fund awards more than $3.3 million in relief

Fundraising Continues in an Effort to Meet Overwhelming Need

Today, the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund announced that more than $3.3 million dollars has been awarded to 906 artists and 166 cultural organizations across the state, which is expected to reach recipients in the coming weeks. The Fund’s application portals will reopen today, after a temporary pause to fundraise and process initial applications, and will remain open through May 11 for a second round of submissions.

On April 1, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Governor JB Pritzker and Arts Alliance Illinois with First Lady MK Pritzker and First Lady Amy Eshleman, announced the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to artists, artisans, and cultural organizations impacted by COVID-19.

The Fund was initially seeded with $4 million in commitments from public and private sources, including a $1 million contribution from Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). The day the Fund opened, it received more than 2,000 applications – demonstrating the enormous need among Illinois’ cultural community. To date, Arts for Illinois has received more than 8,500 applications.

“Illinois’ arts and cultural community has been deeply impacted by COVID-19 crisis, requiring bold and immediate action to support our incredible artists and organizations as they struggle to make ends meet as this pandemic keeps them from performing, teaching, and opening their doors to the public,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “If this crisis has shown us anything, it’s the importance of the arts in our lives through all the movies, books, music, and other content we’ve enjoyed while we’ve been staying home. I am tremendously proud of Chicago’s continued contributions to this fund and broader support efforts and look forward to rejoining the rest of our state in experiencing our favorite artists and venues in-person when this crisis comes to an end.”

Every Sunday during the stay at home order, different Chicago artists are taking over the Mayor’s Instagram account, introducing new and showcasing favorite artists to audiences. The Sunday Arts Takeover has been a key tool in increasing the fund so that more arts and cultural organizations can receive much needed assistance as Illinois’ Stay at Home order extends through the end of May.

Since its launch, new contributors to the fund have committed nearly $1.5 million, including Alexandra and John Nichols, Alphawood Foundation, Bayless Family Foundation, Bob Shapiro and Ginger Farley, Caerus Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, Esther Grisham Grimm, JB & MK Pritzker, Lamar and Lisa Johnson, Leslie Hindman, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and Thierer Family Foundation, among others. In addition, grassroots donations collected through the website have reached $150,000.

“I am so proud how individuals, the philanthropic community, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois have come together to support our creative community; from nonprofit arts organizations to individual artists,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I urge everyone to continue supporting these artists, and ask those that can, to make a donation to help us support more artists and organizations.”

“An overwhelming, but not surprising, surge of applications prompted us to pause to fundraise and process applications – we are grateful to be delivering this additional relief thanks to the philanthropic and government organizations and individuals who have stepped up and shown support for the creative community,” said Claire Rice, executive director, Arts Alliance Illinois. “Yet significant need remains. We must keep fundraising because the need is so great. Artists and creatives, some of our most valued community assets, can also be some of our most vulnerable: many living paycheck to paycheck with little savings, stringing gigs together to make a living. What’s more, often these individuals supplement their income by working in the other devastated industries: restaurants, childcare, and private transportation.”

From the beginning, Arts for Illinois, with its grant-making partners 3Arts and Arts Work Fund, have placed a high priority on equitable distribution of grants with a focus on organizations by, for, and serving people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and women. In this first round, 44 percent of the art organizations that were awarded grants met this criteria statewide (including 62 percent of all Chicago organizational grantees) and 70 percent of individual artists across Illinois.

“The creative sector is stronger and more vibrant when it represents the diversity of our communities. When we are able to once again experience live art, it’s important that the theatres, studios, and performance spaces that support artists of color, those with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and women remain open, and that individual artists from those communities feel supported and seen,” said Rice.

Visit to learn more.

About Arts Alliance Illinois
Arts Alliance Illinois fights for arts resources and policies that benefit our members and all Illinois residents. With 25,000 active subscribers and hundreds of members, we connect the people and ideas that are shaping the future of the creative sector. As the only multidisciplinary organization concentrated on the strength of arts and culture across the state, the Alliance takes on challenges that no single organization or artist can fight alone. Our work in civic engagement, arts education, and cultural equity positively impacts every community across the state. Visit to learn more.

About 3Arts
3Arts is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Chicago’s women artists, artists of color, and artists with disabilities who work in the performing, teaching, and visual arts. By providing cash awards, project funding, residency fellowships, professional development, and promotion, 3Arts helps artists take risks, experiment, and build momentum in their careers.

About Arts Work Fund
The Arts Work Fund is a collaborative fund launched by a group of foundations in January 2007. Through grantmaking and creating opportunities for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, the Arts Work Fund seeks to help small arts and culture organizations develop sustainable structures so that they can better meet their artistic missions.

Scroll to Top