Art Design Chicago 2024 Exhibition Research & Development Grants

A person is standing, looking straight ahead, to a wall with three artworks hung side by side above a white table.

A visitor explores the exhibition “Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America” on November 10, 2018, at the Chicago History Museum.

We are no longer accepting applications for this program. Visit Art Design Chicago 2024 for information on current and upcoming grant opportunities available as part of Art Design Chicago.


*Note: The grant guidelines for Art Design Chicago were updated on 9.22.2020 in response to widespread calls for cultural institutions to advance racial and social justice in the face of violence against people of color and inequities in the cultural sphere. The foundation continues to engage in conversations with our grantees and partners with the aim of adapting our requirements and priorities in response to the urgency of the current moment.

Art Design Chicago is a platform for collaboration and collective action to explore and elevate Chicago’s rich visual-art and design histories and creative communities. The project is intended to build new understandings of the city through art and design, and to strengthen vital connections between its cultural organizations, creatives, and communities. Developed by the Terra Foundation for American Art in partnership with cultural leaders from across the city, this initiative celebrates the diverse individuals, groups, and movements that have made and continue to make Chicago a distinctive hub for creative innovation. The second iteration of Art Design Chicago, featuring a series of exhibitions and events in 2024 as well as collaborative projects and programs throughout the intervening years, offers new opportunities to share the multiplicity of voices and stories that contribute to the city’s dynamic artistic identity and cultural history.

To encourage expansive thinking about Art Design Chicago 2024 priorities and focus and support the development of deeply researched exhibitions accompanied by innovative engagement strategies and programming, the Terra Foundation invites Chicago-area cultural organizations to apply for two types of Research & Development Grants, to be awarded in two stages:

  1. Exhibition Research & Development Grants, supporting research convenings, research travel, and/or a research fellow, will be awarded in fall 2020 and spring 2021
  2. Recipients of Exhibition Research & Development Grants will be eligible to apply for Community-Engagement Research & Development Grants, which will be awarded starting in fall 2021. Organizations interested in applying are asked to participate in a learning community with other Art Design Chicago partners, which will allow for sharing best engagement practices and exploring opportunities for collaboration. Additional details about the grant opportunity and learning community will be available in spring 2021.

These research & development grants are intended to help recipients:

  • Consult primary sources (e.g., archives and collections) and meet with other specialists to gain new insights and perspectives on their exhibition topics and plans
  • Explore possibilities for developing a traveling exhibition
  • Investigate and plan audience- and community-engagement strategies (e.g., approaches to outreach, partnerships, gallery interpretation, and programming) in early stages of exhibition development
  • Explore opportunities to work in partnership with other cultural leaders and organizations and/or community-based groups

Exhibition Research & Development Grants may be used for one or more of the following:

  • Research Convening(s): enabling exhibition curators and education/engagement staff to meet with invited scholars and community representatives to discuss their research and plans for the exhibition and catalogue, and to consider ways to make the content relevant and accessible to a broad and diverse audience. Terra Foundation funds may be used for travel and lodging for participants from outside of Chicago, meeting materials, meals, and modest honoraria for participants not employed by organizing/presenting institutions. Awards up to $20,000.
  • Research Travel: for exhibition organizers to visit public and private art collections, archives, and libraries to investigate their exhibition topic and refine their plans. Terra Foundation funds may be used for transportation, lodging, meals, and research fees and expenses. Awards up to $4,000.
  • Terra Foundation Research Fellowship stipends: for a fellow who can support exhibition research. Candidates are expected to have an degree in art or design history or a related field, or the equivalent years of relevant work experience, and a demonstrated record of conducting advanced inquiries. Recruiting candidates from groups that are under-represented in the museum curatorial field is encouraged. Fellows will work under the supervision of exhibition organizers and are requested to participate in a network with other Terra Foundation Fellows. Awards are expected to range from $10,000 to $60,000, depending on the length and scope of the fellowship and the experience required.

Requirements & Priorities for Art Design Chicago Exhibition Projects

Exhibitions must:

  • Be informed or led by diverse voices and offer insightful scholarship about Chicago’s art/design history that is accessibly represented within the exhibition and documented in a publication or other type of lasting and publicly available resource that will serve future research. Exhibition catalogues with contributions from more than one scholar are preferred.
  • Be accompanied by strong engagement and interpretive strategies designed to reach a broad audience that is representative of Chicago’s diverse population, including individuals who may be new museumgoers.
  • Open between May and the end of November 2024.

The foundation strongly encourages exhibition projects that:

  • Feature the work of diverse makers and address creative practices and communities that have not previously, or recently, been the subject of close study or exhibitions
  • Open up new contexts for thinking about Chicago’s art and design histories (and by extension US art and design histories); for example, via interdisciplinary and/or comparative approaches
  • Incorporate audience perspectives and the expertise of education/engagement specialists in early stages of the exhibition’s conceptualization and development
  • Include partnerships between organizations that help to advance their respective scholarly and/or engagement goals
  • Feature under-researched and rarely exhibited but significant Chicago-area collections of art, design, and related material
  • Are long-running (e.g., three months or more) and will travel to venues beyond Chicago following the local presentation

The foundation welcomes exhibition projects that:

  • Bring historical works of art and/or design into dialogue with contemporary works in meaningful ways, to illuminate the present moment and bring new perspectives to understandings of US history and art history. The majority of works must be by Chicago artists/designers.
  • Involve the input and participation of contemporary artists and designers.


The deadlines for this program have passed.


Organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area may apply for Art Design Chicago Exhibition Research & Development grants. The Terra Foundation only accepts proposals from institutions with United States 501(c)(3) status, and does not make grants to individuals. The Terra Foundation does not accept proposals for:

• Projects exclusively focusing on 21st-century art and design. (To be considered for funding, at least half of the content must focus on visual art and design made prior to 2000 by artists/designers closely associated with Chicago.)

• Projects that focus exclusively or primarily on the city’s architecture, built environment, or urban plan as they have been relatively well researched. Instead, the initiative focuses on aspects of Chicago’s art and design history that have received less scholarly attention

• Capital expenditures.

If you have questions after reviewing the Art Design Chicago 2024 FAQs, please contact Program Director, Chicago Grants and Initiatives, Jenny Siegenthaler, at [email protected].

How to Apply

The Terra Foundation for American Art has moved its grant making to an online system. With the new system, grant seekers will benefit from a streamlined application process. Review the Grants FAQ page for additional information on the online application process.

The grant application process is three-part:

  1. Before submitting a formal proposal to the Terra Foundation, prospective applicants must complete a letter of inquiry (LOI). 
  2. After reviewing the letter of inquiry, the foundation may invite the submission of a formal online 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 online letter of inquiry. The online LOI will require the following information:

  • Brief statement of the organization’s history and mission
  • Concise description of the research-and-development project, including its start and end dates as well as project components and questions to be researched
  • Objectives of the project
  • Other organizing partners and funding sources and amounts contributed for the project, if relevant
  • Total cost of the project and the grant amount requested

Submit a letter of inquiry for an Art Design Chicago 2024 Exhibition Research & Development grant using this link: Apply here.

A prospective applicant can expect to hear from the foundation within three weeks of receipt of its letter.

Formal Proposal

After the letter of inquiry is reviewed, prospective applicants may be invited to submit a formal proposal through the online system. Please note that an invitation for a formal proposal does not guarantee funding at any level.

Download Sample ADC Exhibition R&D Proposal Form.