Grant Applications Now Available Online

Alexander Calder’s monumental sculpture Jerusalem Stabile (1976) was included in the 2014 exhibition Calder at the Rijksmuseum, supported by the Terra Foundation.

Exhibition Grants

Recognizing the importance of experiencing original works of art firsthand, the Terra Foundation supports exhibitions that increase the understanding and appreciation of historical American art (circa 1500–1980). The foundation has a particular interest in exhibitions that add an international dimension to the study or presentation of historical American art or take place in Chicago, where we’re headquartered. “International dimensions” vary by project, but may include:

  • A venue outside the United States
  • A focused thesis that makes a significant contribution to scholarship on historical American art in an international context
  • International curatorial involvement
  • Inclusion of international catalogue essayists
  • A presentation that is meaningful to international audiences

Visual arts that are eligible for Terra Foundation Exhibition Grants include painting; sculpture; works on paper (prints, drawings, watercolors, photographs); decorative arts (typically handmade functional objects of high aesthetic quality); design (objects of high aesthetic quality; excludes industrial design); video art; and conceptual art. Excluded are architecture, performance art, and commercial film/animation.

Exhibition Grant proposals will be reviewed by an external panel of scholars and curators who are specialists in historical American art.


Spring 2018 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: August 1, 2017
Proposal: October 16, 2017

Fall 2018 Awards*

Letter of Inquiry: March 1, 2018
Proposal: May 15, 2018

*Please note that Fall 2018 will be the last time awards will be made for exhibitions without at least one venue in either Chicago or outside the US.

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, we ask that grants be acknowledged in exhibition publications. Applications should therefore be submitted in time to allow for such acknowledgement to be included (typically, this means submitting a formal letter of inquiry one year to 18 months before the opening of an exhibition’s first venue).


The foundation only accepts proposals from institutions with United States 501(c)(3) status or the international equivalent. Exhibition Grants are not made to individuals.

There are three types of institutions eligible for funding:

American institutions organizing:

1. Exhibitions on any aspect of historical American art that travel internationally.

  • At least one international venue must be secured before a letter of inquiry is submitted.
  • Any grant award would be made to the American organizer, but it must offset costs incurred by both the organizer and any international venue[s]. These do not have to be shared costs, but frequently are.

2. Exhibitions on any aspect of historical American art that are co-organized with an international venue.

  • Co-organizers must apply jointly.

3. Exhibitions that make a significant contribution to scholarship on historical American art in an international context.

  • Organizer/co-organizers must apply together, and funding must be acknowledged for the full exhibition tour (exception: any exhibition with a Chicago venue, see below).

International institutions organizing exhibitions on any aspect of historical American art.

  • The organizing museum(s) must apply for any non-US tour venues (exception: any exhibition with a Chicago venue, see below)
  • If co-organizing with another museum, co-organizers must apply jointly.

Chicago institutions organizing or hosting exhibitions on any aspect of historical American art.

  • If an exhibition travels to Chicago, only the Chicago institution presenting the exhibition may apply for funding (no funding is available to the organizer unless the topic situates American art within an international context; even in that case, however, funding must also be requested to offset costs of the Chicago venue).
  • For details, please contact Program Director of Exhibition & Academic Grants Carrie Haslett ([email protected]) in advance of submitting a letter of inquiry.

The Terra Foundation requires that exhibitions include the following:

  • New ways of thinking about American art,
  • Scholarly interpretation and a contextualized presentation,
  • Engagement with exceptional art objects,
  • Related scholarly publications, and
  • Related educational programming tailored for the intended audience.

Grant funding is also available for exhibitions that include objects from the Terra Foundation collection (see Terra Collection Initiatives).

The Terra Foundation does not accept proposals for:

  • Acquisitions or capital expenditures;
  • Exhibitions and programs focused primarily on art made after 1980;
  • Exhibitions primarily comprised of single private or commercial collections;
  • Online exhibitions;
  • Permanent collection installations;
  • Exhibitions focused on architecture, conservation, or film; or
  • Exhibitions previously declined by the Terra Foundation.

As the foundation prefers to fund full tours, we will only accept one proposal per exhibition. The proposal must come from the organizing institution(s), unless there is a Chicago venue, in which case see “Chicago” in the eligibility guidelines above.

Please note that the award of a research & development grant does not guarantee eligibility in the exhibition grant program area.

If you have questions about our Exhibition Grants, please visit the Grant FAQs page or contact Grants Manager Amy Gunderson ([email protected]) or Program Director of Exhibition & Academic Grants Carrie Haslett ([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) using this link: Exhibition Program Letter of Inquiry
  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 for the project, if relevant
  • Preliminary or draft exhibition checklist noting prospective lenders
  • Internal deadline for submission of changes to exhibition catalogue (Please be aware that the Terra Foundation for American Art requires the inclusion of its logo in the catalogue of any funded exhibition).
  • Total cost of project and the grant amount requested

All letters must be written in English.

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.

While the formal proposal must be submitted through the online system, you may download a PDF of the application for your reference:

Download the Exhibition Grants application