Lollapalooza rolls into the city on Thursday, bringing concert-goers from all over the country, some of music industry’s biggest names — and millions of dollars for the city.
This year, though, it’s bringing something else: money for Chicago Public Schools’ arts programs.
The music festival’s organizers on Thursday are launching the Lollapalooza Arts Education Fund, in partnership with Ingenuity, an arts education nonprofit. Over the next five years, the program will invest $2.2 million to support arts education in CPS schools.
“Part of the mission of Lollapalooza is the youth of America,” said Charlie Walker, founding partner of Lollapalooza promoter C3 Presents. “We were looking for an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the community and to the city of Chicago.”
The arts education gap in Chicago is significant, and falls along racial and economic lines. Ingenuity’s State of the Arts Report from the 2018-2019 school year found that 35% of CPS students were enrolled at schools without consistent access to high-quality arts education.
Those students were disproportionately Black and economically disadvantaged.
“Lollapalooza is one of the most notable, successful, creative events in our city each year,” said Paul Sznewajs, executive director of Ingenuity. “The opportunity was very ripe to connect that terrific experience that occurs every summer in our city to what happens in our schools.”
For 10 years, Ingenuity and its public private banking entity, the Creative Schools Fund, have allocated $15 million in grants to CPS schools.
“We know that we have incredible talent, not only in our students and in our schools, but in community arts organizations that partner with us,” said Julia deBettencourt, executive director of arts at CPS. “We hope that we can continue to strengthen (students’) creative capacities and envision themselves on the Lollapalooza stage someday.”
C3 conducted its own study of Lollapalooza’s economic impact, and according to the company, the festival has brought in $1.7 billion for the Chicago economy. The 2020 event was canceled by the pandemic, but the 2019 event grossed more than $247 million. Of that, nearly $7.5 million went to the Chicago Park District.
The Lollapalooza Arts Education Fund will use Ingenuity’s Creative Schools Certification rating system to decide which CPS schools are most in need.
So far, the program has identified 220 schools, although the list is not public. This year’s portion will be distributed in August.
Grants from the fund range from $1,000 to $10,000. The money can be used for an array of items, including materials, instruments, and even performances and field trips.
Arts liaisons at each school will help decide how to best use the funds, deBettencourt said.
Studies have shown arts programs have a beneficial impact on students’ social, emotional and academic development.
In 2019, the Brookings Institute found that increased art educational experiences reduced disciplinary infractions in schools, improved standardized writing scores and increased students’ compassion for others.
“Music is meaningful to us,” said Walker. “It changes a lot of people’s lives, whether it’s just listening or making it or playing it. Knowing how important it’s been to all the people that touched my life, and the fans, we realized that that’s where we wanted to make our impact.”
Lollapalooza’s donation is one of the largest Ingenuity has received, Sznewajs said, calling it a “transformational gift” for students.
“At a time when our kids have lost so much over the past year, the arts are a tool for recovery and reconnecting, and I think it’s a great symbol for what we can aspire to going forward in our schools for our kids.”
Along with the grant, next week C3 and Lollapalooza will present CPS with a bass drum from the festival. Throughout the weekend, the drum will be placed behind the main stage in the Artists’ Village to be signed by performers.
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.