The Terra Foundation is pleased to invite Letters of Inquiry for the second year of this two-year initiative, which follows phase one of its recovery grant program for museums in the United States, including those in metropolitan Chicago. Phase one of the recovery program began as a means of offering immediate financial assistance in response to COVID-19 and the effects of shutdowns and other measures necessitated by the pandemic. Through this second phase, we continue to assist with the financial challenges faced by art institutions. Recognizing the urgency of addressing inequities in the presentation and discussion of American art, we are especially interested in projects that can help organizations meaningfully advance their work to become more diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive.
In support of these goals, the Terra Foundation reached out to organizations across the United States and in Chicago to assess future directions and financial needs, which revealed a pervasive interest in mining permanent collections to tell stories that convey more expansive views of American art. Grant proposals will be reviewed by an external panel comprising curators who are specialists in American art and who reflect a diverse range of backgrounds, perspectives, and approaches.
The Terra Foundation will support projects that engage permanent collections in order to offer more diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive histories of American art and visitor experiences. Grants will offset planning and/or implementation costs for:
- permanent collection reinstallations
- temporary exhibitions drawn primarily from a museum’s permanent collection or that join other collections’ holdings
We anticipate that individual grants will range between $25,000 and $75,000. The Terra Foundation encourages proposals from museums of varying sizes, annual budgets, and geographic regions.
Spring 2022 decisions
Letter of Inquiry: November 1, 2021
Proposal: January 7, 2022
Projects should begin no sooner than April 1, 2022
Priorities and Goals
The Terra Foundation seeks projects that draw primarily from the applicant organization’s permanent collection to re-envision and reinstall its permanent collection or to create a temporary exhibition. Specifically, we seek to support projects that share fuller histories of American art with the public—whether through the diversity of artists featured, the voices influencing the curatorial vision or approach, and/or the stories told—both within the galleries and published in print or online.
Temporary exhibitions should be thematically driven and may, if desired, combine the permanent collection with other collections’ holdings. In keeping with the Terra Foundation’s commitment to historical American art, all projects should focus on art of the United States with an emphasis on art created prior to 1980.*
The Terra Foundation prioritizes projects that interrogate and broaden definitions of American art and lends support for projects that transform or complicate how the story of American art is told. To expand histories of American art, we encourage projects that:
- share fuller histories of American art with the public, whether through the diversity of artists featured, voices influencing the curatorial vision or approach, and/or the narratives told
- generate new scholarship and interpretive frameworks that employ critical methodologies and innovative models
- reflect a commitment to inclusive and collaborative research and curatorial practices that engage diverse voices and partners in reinterpreting American art;
- and/or offer inclusive and accessible visitor engagement opportunities.
*While we welcome the inclusion of contemporary art, if all objects are by US artists, at least half of the works should date to before 1980. If the project is international in scope, at least one-third of the objects must be by US artists and date to before 1980.
United States: The funded project must be organized and shown within the United States and/or its territories.
Chicago: The funded project must be organized and shown within the Chicago metropolitan area.
For this program, the Terra Foundation only accepts proposals from institutions with United States 501(c)(3) status. If co-organizing a temporary exhibition with a partner museum, the co-organizers must apply jointly. Grants are not made to individuals.
The Terra Foundation does not accept proposals for:
- Acquisitions or capital expenditures
- Exhibitions of primarily single private or commercial collections, even if on long-term loan to a museum (promised gifts acceptable)
- Exhibitions that are exclusively online
- Exhibitions previously opened that are touring to new venues
- Exhibitions previously declined by the Terra Foundation
Since this is a recovery program, exhibitions using funding from these grants should open within two years of Terra Foundation approval of the grant; reinstallations supported by a grant should begin within three years of the grant award date.
Proposals may request planning and/or implementation funding for temporary exhibitions or reinstallations; however, we will accept only one proposal per institution through the initiative. The proposal should come from the organizing institution(s).
How to Apply
The Terra Foundation for American Art uses an online grant making system. Review the FAQ for additional information on the online application process.
The grant application process is three-part:
- Before submitting a formal proposal to the Terra Foundation, prospective applicants must complete a letter of inquiry (LOI) by following this link: Re-envisioning Permanent Collections.
- After reviewing the letter of inquiry, the foundation may invite the submission of an online formal grant proposal.
- 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
- Objectives of the project
- Other organizing partners and funding sources and amounts for the project, if relevant
- Preliminary or draft object list
- Total cost of project and the grant amount requested
All letters must be written in English.
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.