Our year in review

Marcela Torres and Izayotilmahtzin Mazehualli perform at this year’s One State Conference in Springfield, Illinois.

This year, we...

Helped Illinois creatives connect with and navigate $50 million in needed relief funding

More than half of the applicant pool for B2B Arts learned about this year’s historic relief opportunity from the Alliance and our statewide network of over 70 partners. Arts Alliance worked tirelessly this Spring to provide 1:1 application assistance to creatives and help them access this badly needed relief.

In all, 2,235 awards were distributed statewide: a lifeline to organizations and individuals as they continue to face increased costs, shrinking budgets, and uncertain futures.

Expanded our ability to help arts and culture access other government support​

There are clear knowledge and accessibility gaps in our sector when it comes to discovering and applying for public funds. We’re working to fill those gaps.

Arts Alliance is uniquely equipped to help the creative community navigate public funding opportunities both within and outside traditional arts agencies given our relationships across both the creative sector and government. This year, we helped arts and culture leaders access opportunities from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and more.

The Alliance's work really changed my entire experience of applying for a government grant.
- B2B Arts applicant
I think [the Alliance] really encouraged, especially some of the individual artists who really had never gone through a process like this before, to say, "I really should give this a go."
- Arts Alliance outreach partner

We also:

Muralist Everett Reynolds stands alongside his mural, “Freed to Love.”

Advocated for public funding and more alongside the creative community

  • Secured a 13% increase in the Illinois Arts Council Agency FY24 budget as part of the 2023 legislative session, including increases in arts education and the humanities. (Read our Spring Legislative Recap.)

  • In Chicago, secured an 18.9% overall gain in arts funding for 2024 compared to the 2023 budget.

  • Championed a $5 million investment by Cook County in the arts and culture sector, the first investment of its kind by the county.

  • Helped raise the audit threshold for small nonprofit organizations to $500,000, a long sought-after policy change to decrease the financial and administrative burden on arts nonprofits, many of which are led by and serve BIPOC communities.

  • Launched a new comprehensive three-year policy agenda rooted in community input gathered through statewide listening sessions.

A gathering of the South Side Artists in Sacred Spaces cohort.

Provided access to space and continued supporting new job pathways for artists

  • In partnership with Partners for Sacred Spaces and Bustling Spaces, LLC, launched South Side Artists in Sacred Spaces: a pilot program connecting congregations on the South Side of Chicago with artists and arts organizations needing affordable, accessible space for rehearsals, performances, classes, administrative needs, and other programming.

  • Advanced our Workforce Development efforts, gathering national case studies and skills-based research to create new stable professional pathways and pipelines for creative workers.

Partnered on essential research for the field

  • Deepened our research partnerships with the University of Illinois to better understand the cultural assets and workforce of our state and advance our advocacy and policy work.


  • Partnered with the University of Illinois, University of Illinois Chicago, and Discovery Partners Institute to establish a new visiting research specialist role focused on workforce development in the creative economy and research that advances our policy and advocacy agenda for the broader advancement of arts and culture across Illinois.

An idea board created by members of the South Side Artists in Sacred Spaces cohort.

I always appreciate being in the mix with so many artists and arts leaders from outside of Chicago. The One State conference truly unites us across rural and urban centers.
- 2023 One State Conference attendee
I really love the way that we seem to be teaching institutions the ways in which their practices may be harmful and imagining alternatives to what their campaigns can look like.
- Liberation Learning Group cohort member

Provided learning and connection opportunities for creative leaders

  • Partnered with the Illinois Arts Council Agency on the 2023 One State Conference, the only statewide conference for artists of all disciplines, organizations of all sizes, and Illinoisians from all areas, taking place in Springfield. With nearly 200 attendees—over half of whom came from outside Chicagoland—and over a dozen sessions, One State gave the sector its first in-person statewide convening and networking opportunity since the 2020 pandemic.

  • Hosted Arts Alliance’s first-ever Capital Day in 2023, convening 135 advocates from across Illinois in Springfield to meet with over 1/3 of the Illinois General Assembly and advocate to increase the Illinois Arts Council Agency’s budget.

  • Began a new Liberation Learning Group cohort of 22 Alliance members from across the state—including nonprofit administrators and leaders, municipal arts workers, individual practitioners, and direct arts service providers—to develop a shared analysis of power, racism, and community-driven work in Illinois, and through it build relationships of solidarity and mutual empowerment for anti-oppression work across our sector. The cohort represents a cross-section of disciplines, organizational position, racial background, age, and gender.

  • Revel-ed with the Creative Community at The Salt Shed in Chicago for the Alliance’s Annual Benefit, celebrating the artists that inspire us, the cultural organizations that bring us together, and the brilliant minds that make up our statewide network of advocates.

Expanded our network, increasing our impact across Illinois

  • Grew our member base from 180 individuals and organizations to 307, nearly doubling the number of individual creative workers in the Alliance.


  • Expanded our digital reach, with 10% growth in our social media following and 150% more traffic to our website than in 2022 (much of which came from Illinois users outside of Chicago.)

  • Nearly doubled the size of our Arts Leadership Council, bringing in new perspectives and skill sets to advise the Alliance on strategy, programs, and membership development.

  • Supported two growing networks of national advocates, bringing together arts and cultural advocacy leaders from over 30 states in Chicago this September to elevate action for arts sector growth at the state and local levels.

What's next?

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