NASAA Notes: March 2024

March 13, 2024

Illinois: Grants Policy Shifts

Illinois Arts Council staff and board members gather with local arts leaders and community members during a listening tour visit to the National Museum of Mexican Art in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Photo courtesy of Illinois Arts Council

In 2023, the Illinois Arts Council (IAC) initiated an assessment of its grant making strategies. As a first step, the agency sought community input through an extensive statewide listening tour. IAC staff and council members conducted 34 town hall meetings in over 20 counties. The meetings were attended by more than 200 cultural organizations as well as individual artists, civic leaders, legislators and local government officials. Each forum offered an opportunity to hear from stakeholders, explore different facets of the state’s creative economy and learn about strengths and gaps in systems for arts support.

Concurrent with the listening tour, IAC partnered with NASAA on a formal assessment of the agency’s programs, policies and procedures for operating support grants. The Illinois Equitable Grant Making Assessment Initiative (EGAIN) was designed to analyze the distribution of IAC grant dollars and identify ways that the agency could reduce funding barriers. EGAIN employed a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, including a geospatial analysis of IAC grant awards, data benchmarking, constituent interviews, a statewide survey and a field scan of grant practices of other state arts agencies. The analysis concentrated on four key dimensions of equity: geography, race/ethnicity, disability and poverty. A suite of reports outlines findings from each phase of the research and synthesizes recommendations for the agency’s consideration.

Based on what was learned, IAC announced significant changes to its grant-making strategies to facilitate constituent access to resources. Among those changes are:

  • IAC has divided its portfolio into six distinct regions and assigned program directors to each. This will help the agency cultivate deeper relationships with rural and under-resourced communities and strengthen regranting partnerships.
  • General operating support grants will transition to become three-year grant awards in fiscal year 2025. A simplified application and final report will require minimal information to determine feasibility and organizational health. This will reduce application burden for grant seekers and free up time for IAC staff to spend more time on constituent assistance.
  • A cash match will no longer be required for applicants. This will make funding requirements less onerous for small and emerging organizations.
  • A new funding formula will be developed to shape an equitable regional distribution of grants and give priority to historically under-resourced communities.
  • The Summer Youth Employment in the Arts program will be revised to Youth Employment in the Arts to help provide year-round, paid internship opportunities for individuals from ages 14-22.
  • IAC will launch a new grant program for individual artists called the Creative Accelerator Fund. Rather than restricting expenditures to specific project activities, this program will provide holistic support to Illinois artists.
  • IAC will collaborate with other state and federal agencies to facilitate access to additional pools of funds (beyond IAC) that may benefit the creative sector.

For more information about the agency’s policy changes, contact IAC Deputy Director Encarnacion Teruel.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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