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.

Art Design Chicago 2024 Exhibition Research & Development Grants


Plans for Art Design Chicago are informed by input from the Chicago cultural community. While Art Design Chicago 2024 shares elements in common with the 2018 initiative, such as an emphasis on original scholarship, a key distinction of the 2024 project is increased support for grantees’ work to reach new audiences and deepen their community-engagement efforts. These elements are reflected in the guidelines below.

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

  1. Exhibition Research & Development Grants, supporting research convenings, research travel, and/or a research fellow, will be awarded in summer 2020, fall 2020, and spring 2021 (respective letters of inquiry due on January 15, 2020; May 15, 2020; and August 14, 2020)
  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 and 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 perspectives on their exhibition topics;
  • Explore possibilities for developing a traveling exhibition;
  • Investigate and plan audience- and community-engagement strategies (e.g., approaches to gallery interpretation, programming, outreach, and partnerships) in early stages of exhibition development;
  • Explore opportunities to work in partnership with other cultural organizations and/or community-based groups.

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

  1. Research Convening(s), enabling exhibition curators and education/engagement staff to meet in person with invited scholars and others with expertise to discuss research findings and plans for the exhibition and catalogue, and to consider ways to make the content relevant and accessible to a broad audience. TFAA 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).
  2. Research Travel for exhibition organizers to visit public and private art collections, archives, and libraries to investigate their exhibition topic and refine their plans. TFAA funds may be used for transportation, lodging, meals, and research fees and expenses. (Awards up to $4,000).
  3. Terra Foundation Research Fellowship—stipends for an individual to support exhibition research. Candidates are expected to have an advanced degree in art or design history or a relevant field, and a demonstrated record of conducting advanced inquiries. Fellows will work under the supervision of exhibition organizers and are requested to participate in a network with other Terra Foundation Fellows. (Fellowship awards will vary depending on the scope of the research project and experience required.)

Requirements & Priorities for Art Design Chicago Exhibition Projects

Exhibitions must:

  • Offer probing scholarship about Chicago’s art/design history (pre-2000), 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 museum goers.
  • Open between May and the end of November 2024.

The foundation strongly encourages exhibition projects that:

  • 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 approaches and/or comparative approaches (exploring relationships between art and design histories and practices in Chicago and in other places);
  • Incorporate the expertise of education/engagement specialists in early stages of the exhibition’s conceptualization and development;
  • Address practices, practitioners, and communities that have not been the subject of close study previously or recently;
  • 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
  • Are planned to travel to venues beyond Chicago following the local presentation.

The foundation welcomes exhibition projects that:

  • Place pre-2000 works of art and/or design in dialogue with more recent work in meaningful ways, to illuminate ideas and issues represented in the earlier work. The majority of works must be by Chicago artists/designers and date to before 2000.
  • Involve the input and participation of contemporary artists and designers in engagement efforts in ways that help to bring art and design history to life for audiences.


Spring 2021 Awards
Letter of Inquiry: August 14, 2020
Proposal: November 2, 2020

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.

To document the Terra Foundation’s support, grants must be acknowledged in exhibition publications and marketing materials.


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 the Program Director for Education Grants & Initiatives, Jenny Siegenthaler, at siegenthaler@terraamericanart.org.

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.