Francis Chapin, City Scene, c. 1940, watercolor and fiber-tipped orange pen on ivory wove watercolor paper, sheet: 15 5/8 x 22 3/4 in. (39.7 x 57.8 cm), Terra Foundation for American Art, Gift of Bridges Collection, C1994.23

Art Design Chicago Public Program Grants

The Terra Foundation for American Art has launched a grant initiative focused on the rich history of art and design in Chicago between the Great Fire (1871) and the close of the twentieth century. Through the initiative, the Terra Foundation will offer grant support for freshly conceived exhibitions, academic programs, publications, and public programs designed to deepen and expand understanding of:

  • The visual art and design that emerged from Chicago (1871–2000);
  • Chicago’s distinctive character as an art and design center, and the diverse factors that have shaped Chicago’s artistic culture;
  • Ways in which Chicago’s artists and designers have engaged with and influenced culture nationally and internationally.

Projects funded through this initiative will be key elements of Art Design Chicago, the first-ever, large-scale exploration of Chicago’s art and design history. Culminating in a major series of concurrent exhibitions and public programs in 2018, Art Design Chicago will shed new light on the artists and designers associated with Chicago, the city’s role as a metropolitan art center, and its significant contributions to visual and material culture worldwide.

The Terra Foundation will fund public programs that spark dialogue and expand awareness of the art and design history and legacy of Chicago. For more information about the foundation’s definitions of Chicago art and design for the purposes of this initiative, please see the Art Design Chicago FAQ page.

Art Design Chicago will include a comprehensive communications campaign designed to raise awareness locally and internationally and drive public participation. Programs must be scheduled during the second half of 2018 to take full advantage of the marketing efforts for the initiative. Grants are expected to range from $5,000–$35,000.


Programs must be grounded in sound scholarship around the history of Chicago art and design, and must appeal to general audiences, including individuals who may be unfamiliar with the subject matter.

The foundation welcomes programs that:

  • Examine how ideas from disciplines beyond visual art and design (e.g., sociology, psychology, politics, economics, literature, performing arts, architecture, etc.) influenced visual art production or collecting in Chicago;
  • Explore aspects of Chicago’s visual art and design legacy that have endured and shaped present-day practices;
  • Address ways in which the city’s economic, social, and political history affected art and design production in Chicago;
  • Consider the ways in which Chicago artists, designers, art scholars, and institutions contributed to the national and international art scene.

The foundation encourages innovative program formats that:

  • Present opportunities for audiences to experience works of Chicago-based art and design in person, particularly works that are infrequently on view, and call attention to the rich and diverse collections found in the city;
  • Provide platforms for in-depth learning experiences and ongoing dialogue (for example, through a series of programs);
  • Capture program content for dissemination to larger audiences where appropriate (by posting it online or by other means).

Formats may include, but are not limited to:

  • In-person presentations, including lectures, talks, panels, and interviews;
  • Tours and explorations of collections;
  • Classes and workshops;
  • Performative presentations including theater, dance, spoken word, performance art, etc. that are grounded in the history of Chicago art and design and contextualized for audiences;
  • Screenings and discussions.


Summer 2017 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: December 1, 2016
Proposal: February 24, 2017

Spring 2018 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: September 27, 2017
Proposal: December 1, 2017

NOTE: Though there are two deadlines for Public Programs grants, institutions are advised to apply for the Summer 2017 Awards if possible in order to take full advantage of Art Design Chicago marketing opportunities.


Chicago-based organizations may apply for an Art Design Chicago public programs grant. The Terra Foundation only accepts proposals from institutions with United States 501(c)(3) status or the international equivalent, and does not make grants to individuals. The Terra Foundation does not accept proposals for:

  • 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 design history that are less well known;
  • Public programs presented in conjunction with exhibitions that are receiving grant funding from the Terra Foundation;
  • Projects that primarily feature a single private or commercial collection; or
  • Acquisitions or capital expenditures.

If you have questions about Art Design Chicago Exhibition Grants, please visit the Art Design Chicago FAQs page or contact Grants Manager Amy Gunderson ([email protected]) or Program Director of Education Grants & Initiatives 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. Academic programs grant proposals will be reviewed by an external panel of scholars who are specialists in American art and/or design.

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. Prospective applicants can expect to hear from the foundation within three weeks of their letter’s receipt. The letter should be no longer than three pages (including attachments) and include:

  • Brief statement of the organization’s purpose and goals
  • Description of the project, including its relationship to Chicago and the contribution it will make to American art scholarship, its beginning and ending dates, and 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 in English. Download the Art Design Chicago Public Program Grant application.