City announces $2.5 million in arts funding

The $750,000 Artist Response Program will provide grants to art that addresses “recent health, economic and humanitarian crises.”

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Amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic and a stay-at-home order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a man has Daley Plaza to himself as he walks through the Loop, as seen from the roof of City Hall during the Wednesday morning commute, April 1, 2020.

Daley Plaza’s Picasso, one of the city’s most visible pieces of public art, sits nearly vacant in April 2020, early in the pandemic.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

As Chicago’s art scene continues to weather unprecedented hardship during the pandemic, the city plans to fund major public art projects in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

A $750,000 Artist Response Program was announced Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as part of a $2.5 million effort to fund Chicago artists and arts organizations.

The Artist Response Program will support art addressing “recent health, economic and humanitarian crises,” with applications opening Monday, according to a city news release.

“This has presented us with a unique opportunity to not only rebuild our city with the values of equity and inclusion in mind, but also document this journey with art projects designed to engage residents in dialogue, reflection and action,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in the release.

Proposals are being accepted for up to 10 public art projects; those selected will receive grants ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. All artistic disciplines are eligible, from physical artworks to dance performances to theatrical productions.

Proposals getting priority will include those that address “public safety, equity and access,” or that “activate, repair or rebuild spaces” on the South and West sides.

“Chicago has a renowned public art collection, but that work has too often been focused on the central district of the city,” Mark Kelly, commissioner of the cultural affairs department, was quoted as saying.

The Artist Response Program also provides $250,000 for three to five “regranting partners” to distribute funds for smaller art projects.

Applications for both parts of the Artist Response Program are due Feb. 5 at 5 p.m.Applications are available at where artists also can register for an application webinar to be held at 11 a.m. Friday.

Also on Monday, the city announced it will award $1.7 million in grants to nonprofit arts organizations through its annual CityArts Program. Applications open Jan. 19 and are due March 3 at 5 p.m. This year’s program will deal with projects focused on “rebuilding and recovery.”

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