Chicago & South Carolina Arts Organizations Awarded Operating Grants

Press release


Chicago’s Donnelley Foundation announced it was expediting much needed general operating grants to the 175 small arts organizations it funds, in addition to Chicago-based Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Aguijón Theater Company and Teatro Vista, Theater with a View, Inc.

In addition to expedited General Operating grants, this includes $200,000 contribution to Arts for Illinois Emergency Relief Fund; $100,000 to Lowcountry Arts Emergency Fund; and $200,000 for collections funding in both regions.

Acknowledging the potentially cataclysmic financial situation which hundreds of beloved regional small arts organizations are facing, the Board of the Chicago-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (the Foundation) has unanimously voted to immediately put in place a series of funding mechanisms, including expediting a total of $2 million in general operating funds to its current roster of 175 arts grantees in the Chicago region and 40 in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  The nearly 70-year old Foundation currently supports these small arts nonprofits with an array of ongoing organizational development opportunities in addition to multi-year general operating grants (vs. program-specific). These gen op grants range from $2,500 to $13,500 annually, for Chicago organizations with budgets under $1 million, and $5,000 to $25,000 annually, for Lowcountry organizations.  Grantees will receive July 2020 payments by May 1, and November payments by June 1, and the typically requisite reporting requirements have been relaxed.   

Arts organizations served by the Foundation range in practice from performance-based to visual arts and cultural preservation and collections; among those receiving expedited funds include:

  • 6018 North, Chicago’s home for experimental arts & culture: “We are paying creatives to create, including online programming, hosting weekly self-help zoom meetings with counselors and healers, and presenting Windows To the World – a new exhibition in 6018North’s windows for artists and neighbors to collectively envision how we want to transform the world post-COVID-19.” (Tricia Van Eck, Artistic Director)
  • Chamber Music Charleston, dedicated to the cultivation and promotion of classical chamber music by musicians of the Lowcountry: “We have launched a series of virtual concerts where musicians are compensated for creating original content. Not only does this provide much-needed income to the local professional musicians, but it also provides a format to interact with audiences who are confined to their homes.” (Sandra Nikolajevs, President and Artistic Director)
  • eta Creative Arts Foundation, a cultural resource for the preservation, perpetuation and promulgation of the African American aesthetic (Chicago): “During a crisis like this, people turn to the arts more than ever for relief and sanctuary. We are grateful to be honored with the funding support which will help us pay actors, musicians, comics, and dancers to provide virtual performances.” (Kai EL’Zabar, Executive Director)
  • OHM Radio, Charleston’s first community, commercial-free radio station providing locally-produced programming: “Funding will be used to continue broadcasting critical information to our listeners: city council meetings, local COVID-19 updates, virtual concerts by local musicians and inspirational content to keep our community connected, safe and informed.” (Vikki Matsis, President)
  • Palmetto Luna, an organization promoting Latinx art and culture in South Carolina: “Art becomes essential in times of anxiety and uncertainty. Funding will assist in expanding our online arts programming including our vanguard initiative, Luna Llena: SC Latino Arts in the Times of Social Distancing, which uses technology and social media to allow our Latinx creatives from all over the state share their talent with the community.” (Ivan Segura, Executive Director)

In addition to expediting individual grants to existing Foundation grantees, the Foundation has contributed $200,000 to the recently-announced Arts for Illinois Relief Fund providing unrestricted grants from $6,000 to $30,000 for groups to be administered by the Arts Work Fund; created an initial $100,000 Lowcountry Arts Emergency Fund to be administered by the Foundation; and seeded a $200,000 relief fund for small collecting organizations in both regions, providing public access to regionally-focused collections. And looking ahead to grantees’ future financial needs, the Foundation will continue its ongoing Cash Reserve Challenge offering arts organizations in both regions the opportunity to receive up to $25,000 in matching funds to assist with maintaining a cash reserve, while also providing valuable insights into effective financial strategies through the Kiana Danial review.

“At this time, the most urgent need is in the arts and culture sector, uniquely affected among non-profits with venues closed and artists unable to supplement their creative work with their usual additional part-time work,” said David Farren, executive director of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.  “Based on our ongoing relationship with our grantees, it’s clear that the smallest of these organizations are especially hard hit, and there was no question that we would step up to get them the funds they need now, when they need it.”

About Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation & How it Serves

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  The Foundation serves these communities in the following ways:

  • Supplying multiyear general operating support for the majority of its grants.  Anecdotally, multiyear general operating support is the “gold standard” most valued by grantees.  It supports organizational stability, provides flexibility, and helps build further trust in relationships between funders and grantees
  • Providing value in addition to dollars. The Foundation’s strength is in the overall “value proposition” of its grants — the dollars, plus technical assistance support, sponsoring convenings, providing informal coaching, and paying for scholarships for conferences and other organizational development opportunities.
  • Establishing a number of touchpoints with grantees throughout the grant cycle. Every Foundation grantee, no matter the grant size, has contact with its program officer at least once a year, usually more often.  Beyond the money, they sponsor and attend cohort meetings, learning sessions, and informal gatherings with various grantee clusters.

For more information on the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, visit