What Has the Terra Foundation for American Art Been Funding in Chicago Lately?

Art Institute of Chicago. photo:  MaxyM/shutterstock

Art Institute of Chicago. photo:  MaxyM/shutterstock

The Terra Foundation for American Art (TFAA) is a unique funder known for bringing visual arts from U.S. artists to national and international audiences. Foundation-supported events and exhibitions exist widely in Europe and in places in like Abu Dhabi and Sydney, Australia, too.

But what about Terra’s hometown of Chicago? What has this art funder been supporting locally?

In the summer, TFAA announced about 33 new grants to 31 organizations for Art Design Chicago projects. Since then, TFAA gave grants totaling around $2.5 million to support publications, exhibitions and programs that are focused on understanding Chicago’s vibrant history in the creative arts and design. While a significant part of TFAA’s mission is getting American art overseas, this particular effort is all about telling the lesser-known narratives of Chicago through art.

Something that stood out to us about the latest TFAA local grant commitments is that 15 grantees are receiving the funder’s support for the very first time. The first-time grantees include the Chicago Design Museum, Chicago Parks Foundation, South Side Community Art Center, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, and the Video Game Art Gallery.

All of these grants are part of the Art Design Chicago Public Program, which is an initiative focused on art that was created between the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 and the end of the 20th century. TFAA has been looking for ways to highlight the distinctive character of Chicago and the diverse factors that have shaped the city’s artistic culture. This is the funder’s first large-scale exploration of the city’s art history, and it’s all leading up to a big series of public programs and exhibitions in 2018. But rather than diving into how art can address social justice in the city, as many other funders are exploring, TFAA is most interested in making the public (locally, nationally, and internationally) aware of the art history and legacy of Chicago.

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Grants from this Chicago-focused program are between $5,000 and $35,000. When it’s all said and done, the Terra Foundation will have invested around $6.5 million to bring this initiative to fruition. Additional funding has been provided by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Meanwhile, the Chicago Community Trust and Leo Burnett have provided in-kind support.

Although the Spring 2018 letter of inquiry deadline has already passed for this program, there are still other opportunities for Chicago groups with TFAA. The funder continues to support K-12 education and public programs in Chicago in regards to increasing the awareness and appreciation for historical American art. Chicago K-12 education grants support bringing American art into Chicago classrooms and helping teachers use it in their lesson plans. But for the rest of this year, TFAA is only accepting K-12 applications by invitation only.

The other big opportunity for Chicago groups is the public grants program, but through 2018, this program is focused on the Art Design Chicago initiative discussed above. However, more limited Chicago funding is still available for public programs unrelated to that. Again, this is all on an invitation-only basis for now. Click here to see a list of Chicago grantees funded in the past, including how much they received and what the support was for.

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