Skip to contents
Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Out Of Work Artist? Pritzker, Lightfoot Announce $4 Million Artist Relief Fund

The new fund will award $1,500 grants to artists, production staff and entertainment workers struggling through the coronavirus outbreak.

Michelle Alvarez spaypaints a character from the video game Fortnite. "Chicago's got a lot of graffiti artists here and we're all one big family. I mean, we either see each other on the streets, like in the form of physical or tags. We know who's there and who's not and that's why I like this event because it brings us all together," she said.
Pat Nabong / Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

CHICAGO — A new relief fund for artists struggling through the coronavirus outbreak has been announced — with over $4 million already earmarked for the effort.

As the city and state work to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and lessen its impact on the economy, Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Wednesday the “Arts For Illinois Relief Fund.” The fund will provide one-time grants of $1,500 for artists and entertainment industry workers who find themselves in need during the outbreak.

Measures like social distancing and the banning of certain public gatherings have hindered numerous industries in Chicago and elsewhere, including the arts. Efforts have been previously announced to help small businesses and renters. Now, city and state leaders — with help from local foundations — are stepping up for arts workers.

“The arts and cultural community is deeply embedded in the fabric of Chicago,” Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, said in a joint statement. “All of these individuals contribute to the City’s vibrant arts and cultural sector, which has been temporarily halted.”

Under the new fund, artists, artisans, arts production staff and part-time cultural workers with an urgent need for financial assistance can apply for the $1,500 grants. Nonprofit arts and cultural groups can also apply for relief through the Arts Work Fund, which will award grants from $6,000 to $30,000.

The nonprofit arts and culture industry in Illinois contributes about $4 billion annually to the state’s economy, Claire Rice, executive director of Arts Alliance Illinois, said in a statement. The coronavirus outbreak, and efforts to mitigate it, have already hampered the industry, with theaters and studios having to close.

“COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on the health of the industry and its economic role in the city and state,” Rice said in a statement. “It’s critical that when we get back to the business of in-person engagement, the arts and cultural community is able to resume operations and fully employ its talent.”

So far, over $4 million has been donated to the arts relief fund. The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events contributed $1 million to the fund. Organizations like the MacArthur Foundation, Walder Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and numerous other nonprofits have donated to the effort.

Chicago First Lady Eshleman and Illinois First Lady MK Pritzker will lead further fundraising efforts for the arts relief fund.

“When the time comes for us to once again gather in person – and that time will come – we must remember this amazing community of creative individuals who have graciously made available their work to entertain us,” the Pritzker’s said in a joint statement. “Until then, we encourage everyone to support this incredible community by appreciating their art in new ways.”

To apply for an Arts For Illinois Relief Fund grant, visit Arts For Illinois’ website by clicking here. Organizations seeking grants from the Arts Work Fund, learn more by clicking here.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.