Crystal Bridges Founding Director and President Don Bacigalupi presents the Terra Foundation Lecture on American Art at the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival.
Crystal Bridges Founding Director and President Don Bacigalupi presents the Terra Foundation Lecture on American Art at the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival.

Chicago Public Program Grants

Special announcement regarding public program grant opportunities: Through 2018 the Terra Foundation for American Art is focusing on the Art Design Chicago (ADC) initiative. Organizations planning public programs about Chicago-related topics to take place in 2018 (when the ADC initiative will be most active), may apply through the ADC grant program. Limited funding is available for public programs that take place prior to 2018, and preference will be given to programs that focus on Chicago-related topics.

The aim of Terra Foundation Chicago Public Program Grants is to increase the understanding and appreciation of historical American art (circa 1500–1980) among general audiences. To achieve these goals, the foundation supports a variety of informal learning opportunities designed to make American art accessible and relevant to Chicago residents. The foundation welcomes proposals from a wide range of organizations, including those that may not typically have an American art focus.

The foundation is particularly interested in projects designed to do one or more of the following:

  • Enlarge or expand audiences for historical American art (for example, by taking place at more than one venue, involving collaboration among organizations, including innovative outreach efforts, building expansion efforts over several years, or capturing program content for dissemination to larger audiences where appropriate by posting it online or by other means);
  • Highlight aspects of Chicago’s art history along with the rich and diverse American art collections found in the city, including public art;
  • Make the best in American art scholarship accessible to the public;
  • Provide opportunities for audiences to experience works of American art in person;
  • Offer possibilities for ongoing learning (for example, through a series of programs);
  • Explore American art through interdisciplinary or thematic lenses; or
  • Use innovative program formats to actively engage audiences.

See “Eligibility” below to learn about program priorities.


Fall 2016 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: May 16, 2016
Proposal: August 2, 2016

Spring 2017 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: October 14, 2016
Proposal: December 9, 2016

If the foundation responds to a letter of inquiry by requesting a proposal, the organization applying for a grant will be expected to complete an application. See “How to Apply” below.


The foundation only accepts proposals from institutions with United States 501(c)(3) status. Applicants must be based in the city of Chicago. An exception may be made only when projects for which funding is requested take place in the Chicago area and Chicago residents make up the majority of the audience served.

Grant funding is available for projects and programs about historical American art and visual culture (circa 1500–1980) that are grounded in sound scholarship and designed primarily for adult learners in Chicago who may not have specialized knowledge of American art or art history.

The Terra Foundation does not accept proposals for:

  • Programs focused primarily on art made after 1980, or
  • Capital expenditures.

If you have questions about our Chicago Public Program Grants, please visit the Grant FAQs page or contact Grants Manager Amy Gunderson ([email protected]) or Program Director of Education Grants & Initiatives Grants Jennifer Siegenthaler ([email protected]).

How to Apply

The grant application process is three-part:

1. Before submitting a formal proposal to the Terra Foundation, prospective applicants must write a letter of inquiry (LOI).
2. After reviewing the letter of inquiry, the foundation may invite the submission of a formal proposal.
3. Formal grant proposals undergo a review process before final decisions are made by the foundation’s Board of Directors.

Letter of Inquiry (LOI)

A letter of inquiry must precede any formal grant proposal to the Terra Foundation; formal proposals are accepted only by invitation of the foundation after review of the letter of inquiry. A prospective applicant can expect to hear from the foundation within three weeks of receipt of its letter. The letter should be no longer than three pages (including any attachments) and include:

  • Brief statement of the organization’s purpose and goals
  • Description of the project, including its beginning and ending dates as well as the need and audience it addresses
  • Objectives of the project
  • Other organizing partners and funding sources and amounts for the project, if relevant
  • Total cost of project and the grant amount requested

All letters should be written in English, addressed to the grants manager, and sent by email to [email protected] Additional printed copies of the letters may be sent to:

Terra Foundation for American Art
120 East Erie Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
United States

Formal Proposal

After a letter of inquiry is reviewed, prospective applicants may be invited to submit a formal proposal. Please note that an invitation for a formal proposal does not guarantee funding at any level. Formal proposals must be written or translated in English and should not be stapled or bound. All attachments should also be written or translated into English.

Download the Chicago Public Program Grants application.