Exploring the Graham Foundation’s Connection and Commitment to Chicago

 photo:   Svetlana Ageeva /shutterstock

photo:  Svetlana Ageeva/shutterstock

The Graham Foundation is based in Chicago, but it's known around the world for redefining architecture and supporting architecture projects as works of art. The foundation has been around since the mid-1950s. It's one of only a handful funders that is interested in the role of architecture within the realm of arts and culture, as well as general society.

But what about the Graham Foundation’s connection to Chicago? How much of this funder's support stays local?

Ernest R. Graham was a prominent architect in the city, where he lived from 1866 to 1936. He is given credit for overseeing construction of the World Columbia Exposition and designing everything from buildings to railroad stations and theaters in major U.S. cities.

In a recent grantmaking round, the funder gave over $400,000 to 41 organizations for original architectural projects, choosing from 220 submissions for the year. But while Graham grants reach all parts of the world, Chicago architects and Chicago-based projects tend to fare very well year after year.

This year, a grant went towards a project called Singing Stones at the Roundhouse of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. The Renaissance Society in Chicago also received a grant, as well as the University of Chicago Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, the Chicago Architectural Club. Support was also given to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Architecture and Design, the Association of Architecture Organizations, the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Graham Resource Center and Master of Landscape and Urbanism Program, and Lampo. Navy Pier, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Art and Art History and the publication, Flat Out, also received a Graham grants.

So, as you can see, Graham’s local support has been pretty strong lately. Lots of these Chicago grants have been focused on higher education institutions, but there’s a nice scattering of public programs, film, video, and exhibitions too. Aside from organizations, the Graham Foundation also gave $560,000 in individual grants to 72 projects earlier in the year.

Looking ahead, the foundation has indicated that it’ll be paying special attention to emerging museums and architectural organizations, which could mean more opportunities for lesser-known groups. This is also a funder that’s really into celebrating city biennials and triennials. The foundation’s newly commissioned, multi-part installation by artist David Hartt is coinciding with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, for example.

Visit the funder’s website to learn more about grants opportunities for individuals and organizations in Chicago or elsewhere in the world.

In Chicago, you can visit the Madlener House (4 West Burton Place) to see the 9,000-square-foot mansion in the Gold Coast neighborhood. This is where the foundation is located, and the mansion reflects the works of prominent architects in the area.  

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