Hans Ulrich Obrist (right), artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, in conversation with artist Amanda Williams (left) and writer Eula Biss (center) during 2018 Chicago Humanities Festival’s “Creative Chicago: An Interview Marathon.”

Chicago Public Program Grants

Through its Chicago Public Program Grants the Terra Foundation seeks to increase the understanding and appreciation of art and design of the United States (circa 1500–2000) among general audiences in Chicago. In support of these goals, the foundation provides grants for informal learning opportunities designed to make art of the United States accessible and relevant to Chicago audiences, promoting reflection about and understanding of history, society, and culture (past and present) through the lens of art and design.


  • To be considered for funding, programs must be designed to appeal to general audiences who may be unfamiliar with the subject matter. The foundation has a strong interest in projects designed to reach audiences that reflect the diversity of Chicago’s population (including audiences not traditionally served by arts and culture institutions).
  • Projects must be grounded in sound scholarship and guided by individuals with expertise in the project topic.
  • While all topics related to art and design of the United States are welcome, the foundation is particularly interested in projects that speak to the diversity of the nation’s artists/designers (including those who have been under-represented in standard histories) and/or that explore Chicago’s art or design history.
  • The foundation has a strong preference for projects that provide platforms for in-depth learning, participation, and dialogue (for example, through a series of programs or workshops), and that capture program content for dissemination to wider audiences where appropriate (by posting it online or through other means).
  • The foundation encourages projects that highlight and activate Chicago-based collections and that include opportunities for first-hand experiences with original works of art.

Program 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;
  • Screenings and discussions; and
  • Performative presentations including theater, dance, spoken word, etc., that are deeply informed by the history of U.S. art and/or Chicago art and are contextualized for audiences.

If you have questions, please contact Terra Foundation Program Director for Education Grants and Initiatives Jenny Siegenthaler ([email protected], 312-654-2253).


Spring 2020 Awards
Letter of Inquiry: September 16, 2019
Proposal: November 15, 2019

Summer 2020 Awards
Letter of Inquiry: January 16, 2020
Proposal: March 15, 2020

If you have questions, please contact Terra Foundation Program Director for Education Grants and Initiatives Jenny Siegenthaler ([email protected], 312-654-2253).

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, and does not make grants to individuals. Grant funding is available to Chicago-based organizations. Exceptions may be made when projects for which funding is requested are directed to Chicago residents, who are expected to make up at least half of the audience.

The Terra Foundation does not accept proposals for:

  • Programs focused primarily on art made after 2000, or
  • Capital expenditures.

If you have questions about our Chicago Public Program Grants, please visit the Grant FAQs page or contact [email protected] or Program Director of Education Grants & Initiatives Jennifer Siegenthaler ([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 FAQ 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 letter of inquiry. A prospective applicant can expect to hear from the foundation within three weeks of receipt of its letter. The online Letter of Inquiry will require the following information:

  • 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 contributed for the project, if relevant
  • Total cost of the project and the grant amount requested

All letters must be written in English.

Submit a letter of inquiry (LOI) for a Chicago Public Program grant using this link: Chicago Public Program Letter of Inquiry

Formal Proposal

After a 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. Formal proposals must be written or translated in English. All attachments should also be written or translated into English.

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