Chicago’s Cultural Treasures

Chicago’s Cultural Treasures is focused on strengthening, growing, and preserving organizations whose mission is to enable the creation, preservation, and dissemination of art stemming from BIPOC traditions, leadership, and culture – for short, we refer to them as “BIPOC arts organizations.”

The initiative is administered by IFF in partnership with a group of Chicago-based funders, including: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationJoyce FoundationPolk Bros. FoundationTerra Foundation for American Art, and Walder Foundation.

The initiative’s independent website is the best place to access up-to-date information on opportunities and deadlines.


Our Goals in Chicago

Chicago’s Cultural Treasures hopes to bolster the long-term financial resilience and sustainability of BIPOC arts organizations through a combination of both critical general operating support, as well as capacity building and technical assistance that will be co-created with the arts community to ensure it meets their needs. This four-year initiative is not designed to provide “emergency funding,” nor is it limited to those organizations in financial distress.

We recognize that many BIPOC arts organizations are facing unprecedented challenges to their decades of leadership and resiliency right now, and that the current crises are compounding historic inequities they have faced. The funders backing this initiative hope to achieve greater equity in funding art that reflects the full diversity of American culture.


Our Connection to America’s Cultural Treasures

In September 2020, the Ford Foundation announced an unprecedented national initiative to support Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations throughout the country. America’s Cultural Treasures brought together 16 major foundations, which together committed $156 million to a two-pronged national and regional effort:

  • The national component of the initiative provided $81 million in direct grants to an initial cohort of 20 organizations that are significant national anchors for artistic and cultural diversity in America. The National Museum of Mexican Art, based in Chicago, received one of these grants (hear more about it in this video blog from Executive Director Carlos Tortolero).
  • The regional component of the initiative provided $5 million in seed funding to each of seven regional grantmaking efforts – one of which is based in Chicago and led by the group of local funders listed above. Together, these local funders committed an additional $11.75 million in matching funds and designed an effort that supports cultural organizations that have contributed to the history, vibrancy, and identity of Chicago. The philanthropist MacKenzie Scott contributed an additional $8 million.

Working together, IFF and the Chicago funders group are focused on serving the many BIPOC arts and culture institutions that have long served as neighborhood anchors, sustained cultural traditions, built community, and helped ensure that experiences are shared and heard. They have achieved this deep community impact despite historically limited resources and funding streams – something Chicago’s Cultural Treasures hopes other arts philanthropists and corporations will join us in changing.