A person looks into a plexiglass case housing teal-colored ceramics.
Visitors to Arte Diseño Xicágo: Mexican Inspiration from the World’s Columbian Exposition to the Civil Rights Era, National Museum of Mexican Art, 2018, supported in part by Art Design Chicago

Chicago Partnerships: Supporting Arts and Culture in the City

Based in Chicago, the Terra Foundation for American Art is committed to strengthening arts and culture in its home city. From the outset of the foundation’s grant program and its initial investment in K–12 education initiatives and public programs, to efforts to highlight Chicago’s contributions to art history and American culture encapsulated in its Art Design Chicago initiative, Chicago has been an important part of the foundation’s grantmaking. The foundation is enhancing its focus on expanding narratives of American art in order to reflect the city’s rich diversity. This commitment includes increased support for organizations that elevate the work of artists and interpreters who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC), as well as women and immigrants more broadly. To support these efforts, we seek partners to engage in city-wide, multi-institutional projects to build a more equitable future for Chicago’s visual arts sector.

Since spring 2020, the foundation has awarded over $2.3 million in relief and recovery grants, supporting 40 Chicago arts and culture organizations that have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Ensuring the continued success of the city’s vital and diverse cultural organizations is a central priority for the foundation.

The relief and recovery grants included $1 million in support of Chicago’s Cultural Treasures, a four-year initiative to support the resiliency and ongoing leadership of the city’s BIPOC –led and –focused arts and culture organizations as they face unprecedented challenges stemming from the global pandemic. The Terra Foundation joined with five other Chicago-based philanthropic organizations as part of Ford Foundation’s national initiative, America’s Cultural Treasures.

In addition to relief support, the Terra Foundation is continuing its investment in Art Design Chicago and Art Design Chicago Now, an extension of the original initiative that features a series of public conversations, hands-on workshops, behind-the-scenes collections’ tours, and digital storytelling that amplifies the voices of Chicago’s diverse community of makers, past and present.

Building upon the work launched through the first iteration of Art Design Chicago in 2018—supporting deep collections research, encouraging the growth of curatorial and academic networks, and uncovering stories of historically underrepresented artists and designers—the foundation is committed to supporting efforts to expand narratives of American art and to illuminate the work of BIPOC artists and the vital stories told within this broader, more inclusive frame.

As part of Art Design Chicago Now, several organizations are receiving the foundation’s support for the first time, including the nascent Center for Native Futures and the Chicago Collections Consortium. The Collections Consortium—comprising libraries, museums, and other institutions with archives that collaborate to preserve and share the history and culture of the Chicago region—partnered with the foundation as part of Art Design Chicago Now to present a series of workshops exploring such topics as the evolution of zine culture in Chicago and the city’s distinctive graphic design history as exemplified in its rich tradition of music poster production. The Center for Native Futures, a newly formed Native, Black-Native, and Indigenous artist resource and platform, presents a public program to discuss ideas and misconceptions about public art, the problems around the monuments settlers have erected to themselves, and the looted and destroyed effigy mounds of Zhegagoynak (Chicago in the Potawatomi language).

Additional first-time Terra Foundation grantees include the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, which each received support for Art Design Chicago exhibition research and development, and Green Lantern Press, for an Art Design Chicago publication.

A community-based arts organization in the Avondale neighborhood, the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance is developing an exhibition entitled Puerto Rico to Chicago: The Shaping of an Arts Community. The project will study Puerto Rico-Chicago connections through the visual artists who came to Chicago, from the early 1940s on, to study and develop their studio and academic skills.

The Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture received support to develop an exhibition entitled Bridging Two Cultures: Lithuanian Immigrant Artists in Chicago: 1950–2000. Through works of art, archival materials, and new oral histories of a dozen artists, its organizers will study Lithuanian and Lithuanian American artists’ engagement with local, national, and international creative networks to assess the impact of Chicago, national and personal identity, and contemporary aesthetic concerns on artistic production in Chicago and Lithuania.

The Green Lantern Press publication, Fleeting Monuments for the Wall of Respect, features responses by more than 30 artists and scholars to the historic Civil Rights–era mural the Wall of Respect.

“The Terra Foundation established its current grant program in Chicago in 2005, and the city has always played an important role in its mission,” said Sharon Corwin, Terra Foundation for American Art president & CEO. “As we acknowledge the inequities and bias that have historically defined narratives of American art, including our own, we are listening to and partnering with individuals and organizations in the city who are reimagining and building more diverse, inclusive, and equitable stories of American art.”