CHICAGO – Building on its history of promoting greater diversity in the arts and supporting cultural institutions set in communities of color, the Joyce Foundation has launched a new partnership with 10 leading Chicago arts and cultural organizations to help achieve greater sustained diversification and long-term operating success.
Ten three-year grants totaling more than $2.5 million were recently approved by the foundation’s Board of Directors to support more artists of color in achieving viable careers, while also strengthening the pipeline of racially diverse arts administrators and building capacity for long-term financial stability.
In designing the new “Spotlight Grant” program, Joyce consulted with 10 of its long-time grantees to determine how the foundation could best support their long-term success. Organizations selected for the new grant program reach cross the city and art forms, but each has been a consistently high-performing grantee for at least 10 years. Joyce asked each to develop a vision for sustainable growth; their responses provide a glimpse at how arts philanthropy can evolve to make a long-term impact.
Recipients of the three-year Spotlight Grants include Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago Sinfonietta, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Hyde Park Art Center, International Latino Culture Center of Chicago, National Museum of Mexican Art, Old Town School of Folk Music, Teatro Vista/Theatre with a View and Victory Gardens Theater.
Many grantees said they needed a more robust pipeline of diverse candidates for staff positions throughout their organizations, including administrative and development. Some said they needed to improve board development. A thread running through all of the proposals was a vision of fundamentally changing their models to ensure a thriving arts scene for years to come.
“Our goal was to encourage these organizations to design programs that they thought would reach their greatest potential,” said Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation. “They requested support tailored for their specific needs, whether that meant more development staff or improved facilities. By providing three years of support, we hope they will make progress toward securing their futures as among the nation’s most artistically fresh and community reflective arts organizations, rooted in diverse communities.”
The new Joyce strategy for its culture program shines a spotlight not only on the public arts spaces but also on back-of-the-house needs, a place that can often be neglected in the arts.
“Too many Chicago arts powerhouses that define our city’s rich cultural offerings are struggling to keep their doors open from one season to the next,” said Angelique Power, Joyce’s senior culture program officer. “So we decided to take a different path with this strategy. We asked these cultural thought leaders what they need, what they see as the future of the arts and how can Joyce support them in their vision.”
The Black Ensemble Theater, one of the most respected and audience-engaged theaters in the country, is using the support to kick-start sustained funding and new earned revenue streams by hiring new development staff.
“This is a natural example of how funding can change the cultural fabric of a city and a country,” said Jackie Taylor, founder and executive director.
The Goodman Theatre will use the three-year grants to make permanent the only paid apprenticeship in the country focusing on technical and managerial roles for diverse candidates.
“The Spotlight Grants enable Goodman to dream that an apprenticeship program like this could be institutionalized, serving not just our theater but all Chicago arts houses with a pipeline of highly trained employees,” said Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman Theatre. “It’s a game changer for us.”
The Hyde Park Art Center, a 75-year-old landmark for the visual arts, plans for new artist studio space, but the benefits will go far beyond more square footage.
“Our new space will be a place for really talented artists of color to catalyze their creative networks and interact with other artists,” said Executive Director Kate Lorenz. “This is more than just a physical space—it’s a transformative moment for our organization.”
Jim Hirsch is executive director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, the most racially diverse orchestra in the U.S. and a champion of dynamically varied programming in classical music. “This game-changing grant allows us to think big and execute bigger. It’s liberating to be able to focus on things that can truly drive our mission forward,” said Hirsch.
The National Museum of Mexican Art will build out its development staff and restructure its board with a keen focus on collection, touring exhibitions, and building the next generation of museum donors and leaders. “This grant is very important to the Museum because it gives us the opportunity to develop our infrastructure as we position ourselves as truly a national institution,” said Executive Director Carlos Tortolero.
“We applaud the Joyce Foundation’s approach, which is based on a partnership of mission and need between funder and grantee rather than the nonprofit repurposing its needs to fulfill the mission of the funder,” stated Janet Brown, president and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. “This new program depends on trust and knowledge of operations between granter and grantee. It will not only strengthen organizations in Chicago so they can reach more citizens but it is a model that many foundations around the country could replicate.”
The Spotlight Grants aim to incentivize systemic change, with the intent to create lasting impact through both a more diverse arts workforce and a more inclusive and rich audience experience.