Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation

OVERVIEW: The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation’s grantmaking program supports musical and theater arts, dance, museums, public television, and radio media in the Chicago metropolitan area.

FUNDING AREAS: Performing arts in dance, music and theater, museums, literature, visual arts, public television, radio media

IP TAKE:  This is a great foundation for arts nonprofits, large and small, to get support for a specific program. But keep in mind that general operating support and unrestricted support are rare.

PROFILE: Elizabeth F. Cheney, a life-long Chicago area resident and supporter of the arts, established a foundation in her name, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, shortly before her death in 1985. Cheney was the great-granddaughter of Chicago pioneer Philo Carpenter and the granddaughter of Henry M. Hooker, founder of one of Chicago's earliest drug stores the Hooker Glass and Paint Manufacturing Company. She was an avid collector of art, books, and antiques, and she donated many pieces of her collection to museums. It was Miss Cheney’s wish to support artistic and cultural endeavors in the Chicago metropolitan area through her foundation. The foundation aims to support “artistic achievement in presentation or performance rather than education enrichment or outreach.” Grantmaking areas of interest are musical performance organizations, theater and dance companies, historical societies, and museums.

The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation’s grantmaking program supports musical and theater arts, dance, museums, public television, and radio media. To encourage a rich civic culture, the foundation supports artistic programs for both performance and presentation. The most common grantees include musical performance organizations, theater and dance companies, historical societies, and museums. In general, the board of directors looks for organizations that are “rigorously engaged with their craft and which are supported by a solid management structure.”

The average Cheney grant is between $1,000 and $40,000, and both well-established and small arts organizations are considered for grants. The foundation has been giving over $1 million annually. Grantseekers can view a list of past grantees on the funder’s website. Almost all grant recipients are based in Chicago, with just a few going to suburbs like Evanston, Highland Park, and Libertyville. In the past, rarer grants have gone to groups in New York, California, and Michigan. The Board meets four times each year and proposal deadlines are as follows: museums and literary arts on February 1st, music on April 1st, dramatic arts on August 1st, and dance on October 1st. It does not typically make grants to help meet operating budgets, and unrestricted grants are rare. Rather, grants are project-oriented with the goal of funding worthwhile projects which otherwise might not receive necessary funding.

The Cheney Foundation does accept unsolicited grant requests from organizations based in and serving the Chicago metropolitan area. It accepts mail, email, and phone inquiries. Inquiries, proposals, and general questions should be directed to Elisabeth Geraghty at egeraghty@cheneyfoundation.org or by phone at 312-782-1242.

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