Culture Guidelines

The description below explains the Joyce Foundation Culture Program’s approach to our work and the types of organizations, projects, and initiatives we seek to fund as part of our 2021-2025 strategy. If you have any questions about whether your work fits within the strategy or other questions about applying for a culture grant from the Joyce Foundation, please contact [email protected].

Our Approach

The Foundation believes that art is key to the quality of life for people in the region and is an indispensable part of healthy and vibrant communities. The arts should serve and reflect the true diversity of the city and that organizations led by and serving communities of color, which have been historically underfunded, should have resources to build sustainability and thrive.

With a focus on Chicago, the mission of the Culture Program is to support the development, growth, and visibility of artists and arts organizations of color to advance racial equity, inspire creativity, and foster more culturally vibrant, diverse, and sustainable communities.

We define arts organizations of color as organizations whose primary practices and mission are by, for, and about artists, cultures, and communities of color. Indicators may include but are not limited to the presence of some combination of: organizational mission; history; executive, artistic, and governance leadership; programmatic content; artists; and audience.

Our grantmaking approach encompasses two focus areas: (1) Creative Organizations and (2) Creative Individuals.

Creative Organizations

Small and mid-size arts organizations of color are vital to strong communities as well as to a strong arts ecosystem in Chicago and the wider great Lakes region. They act as important community anchors, uplifting creativity in communities; supporting a range of rich cultural expressions; and nurturing the voices and talents of artists of color.

As the arts sector continues to recover from the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic and the impact of decades of inequities in arts funding, the Culture program aims to support the recovery, long-term sustainability, and growth of organizations of color by offering Resilience grants, or multi-year general operating support grants. Our goal is to provide organizations with flexibility and runway to address their specific needs and goals.

The Foundation funds arts organizations rooted in communities of color whose work, missions, audience, and operations may demonstrate, but are limited to, some the following characteristics (in no particular order):

  • Offers regular seasons or cycles of engaging, rigorous, and thought-provoking arts exhibitions, performances, and/or public programming
  • Nurtures artistic production among/within communities of color
  • Incorporates the voices, concerns, and needs of artists of color and communities of color into their programming, leadership, and decision-making
  • Pursues and sustains a robust network of partnerships or relationships with other organizations or entities across the arts ecosystem
  • Is at pivotal stage or phase in their organizational trajectory or growth
  • Can articulate (a) pathway(s) towards sustainability
  • Demonstrates a commitment to pay equity for artists of color

As of April 2023, the Culture Program’s previous dedicated digital initiatives and staffing support will be incorporated into flexible, general operating dollars. By doing so, we will invest in fewer grants at higher levels and for longer term to drive impact with these groups.

Creative Individual

Through the Creative Individuals focus area, the Joyce Foundation supports organizations that commission or feature artistically rigorous and challenging cultural work and productions by artists of color and offer professional development to support the their growth and heighten recognition of their contributions to the city, region, and field at large. We accomplish this by offering three types of grants:

  1. Professional Development grants that support opportunities including residencies, fellowships, education, and mentorship to enable early and mid-career artists of color to advance their careers, strengthen professional networks, and raise visibility for their work
  2. Artistic Production grants to organizations for new exhibitions, performances, or publications centering an artist(s) of color, including our annual $100,000 Joyce Awards

Frequently Asked Questions


How are you defining an arts organization of color?

We define arts organizations of color as organizations whose primary practices and mission are by, for, and about artists, cultures, and communities of color. Indicators may include but are not limited to the presence of some combination of organizational mission; executive, artistic, and governance leadership; programmatic content; artists; and audience.

Do you fund initiatives outside of Chicago?

The large majority of our Culture Program funding goes to support arts organizations located within the City of Chicago. The exception to this is the Joyce Awards where, in addition to Chicago, we fund commissioning arts and community organizations who are based and whose work engages communities in the following Great Lakes cities: Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul. For more information about the Joyce Awards, click here.

What kinds of media/genres do you fund?

We value arts organizations and artistic practices across all disciplines, traditions, and genres but our funding has historically focused on supporting projects and organizations of high artistic accomplishment spanning the visual, performing, and multi-disciplinary arts.

Do you provide general operating support, or must we apply for specific project funds?

We provide general operating support through our Resilience grants to arts organizations of color (see definition above). Open to a wider range of organizations, Artistic Production and Professional Development grants that support specific initiatives are also available.

What is the average annual award amount for each grant opportunity?

Average annual award amounts differ depending on initiative:

  • Resilience grants: $50,000-$130,000
  • Joyce Awards: $100,000 (with at least $30,000 dedicated to artist stipends)
  • Artistic Production grants: $25,000-$50,000
  • Professional Development grants: $20,000-$75,000

What is the typical length of time covered by your grant awards?

Grant duration differs depending on initiative:

  • Resilience grants: 2-3 years
  • Artistic Production grants: 1 year
  • Joyce Awards: 12-24 months
  • Professional Development: 1-2 years

Do you fund arts education programs?

No, we do not support school based or K-12 curricular arts education. However, we may consider general operating support to arts organizations whose work may include, but is not limited to, providing high quality, community-based arts instruction to adults and families.

Do you fund capital development projects?

We generally do not make grants for capital campaigns.

Do you support arts journalism and criticism?

Through the Joyce Foundation’s Journalism program area, we welcome proposals that seek to (a) expand the body of arts journalism and criticism, centering the work of artists of color or (b) support art journalists and critics of color.


What is the operating size of the organizations you fund?

While we don’t have strict requirements for applicants’ budget sizes, we tend to fund arts organizations of color (see definition above) whose operating budgets range from $250K to $2.5M.

What do you look for in organizations applying for support under your Creative Organizations focus area?

First, organizations applying for support under our Creative Organizations focus area should self-identify as an “organization of color” (see definition above). In addition to the characteristic listed above in the guidelines, we prioritize funding for organizations that also demonstrate the following:

  • Artistic depth and complexity at consistently high levels
  • Commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Explores, engages, or brings forward the stories and concerns of underrepresented communities and populations
  • Resonance with timely themes, histories, or concerns
  • Effective planning and demonstrated track record of achieving what it sets out to do
  • Strong leadership
  • Solid financial management


What type of support do you offer individual artists?

We offer Artistic Production grants to a wide range of arts organizations presenting new commissions, exhibitions, performances, or publications in collaboration with or featuring emerging and mid-career artist(s) of color. Artists can reside anywhere, but the commissioning or presenting partner organization must be located in the city of Chicago, or in one of six Great Lakes cities (for the Joyce Awards), with the goal of engaging audiences and communities in these regions.

What kinds of costs are eligible for funding under Artistic Production grants?

Funds can be used towards costs, including but not limited to compensation of staff time, production costs, materials, artists stipends, community and partner compensation, documentation, and other expenses.

Do you award grants directly to artists?

We do not award grants directly to individuals. Instead, we make grants to a wide range of arts organizations for programs, projects, and initiatives that support new cultural production by and the professional development of individual artists of color. Also, starting in the 2024 cycle, the Foundation will raise the annual Joyce Award amount to $100,000 to ensure that presenting organizations direct at least $30,000 of the total award directly to the commissioned artist.

What are the Joyce Awards?

The Joyce Awards is one of the only regional programs dedicated to supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities. Since its inception in 2004, the competition has awarded over $4 million to commission over 82 new works and collaborations between artists and arts and community organizations in six Great Lakes cities: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Each award of $100,000 (beginning in 2024) supports an artist in the creation and production of new work and provides the commissioning organization with the resources needed to engage audiences, new partners, and their surrounding communities at large. To learn more about the Joyce Awards and the application process, click here.