Program Mission

Inspiring creativity and fostering culturally vibrant, diverse, and sustainable communities

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.


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 Individuals

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.

The Joyce Awards, the only regional program supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities, aims to inspire creativity, artistic excellence, and collaboration in Great Lakes communities.

Since its inception, the competition has awarded more than $4.4 million to commission 82 new works and collaborations between artists and leading arts, cultural, and community-based organizations in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Each award supports an artist or artists in the creation and production of a new work and provides the commissioning organization with the resources needed to engage potential audiences, new partners, and their surrounding communities at large.

Demonstrating the capacity of the arts to inspire and mobilize social change, the Joyce Awards act as a catalyst for artists’ creative practices as well as fostering culturally vibrant, equitable, and sustainable communities through the arts.

The application process for the 2024 Joyce Awards is now closed. The 2024 Award recipients will be announced in June 2024. And the application cycle for the 2025 Joyce Awards will open in July 2024.

2023 Joyce Awards Announcement

The 2023 Joyce Awards feature projects that explore and strengthen connections between diverse communities, urban environments, and nature to imagine new forums for cultural exchange and assembly across the Great Lakes.

Recently in Culture

Grantee Spotlight

Ron OJ Parson

Acclaimed director/actor Ron OJ Parson is in a season of radical reflection. In a 50-year career that most creatives dream of, Parson has become one of the nation’s pre-eminent theater directors. Learn more about his work here.

Joyce Award Winner

Sonny Mehta with Mandala South Asian Performing Arts

Sonny Mehta and Mandala South Asian Performing Arts are one of the five winners of the 2023 Joyce Awards, which lift up collaborations between artists of color and arts and community organizations throughout the Great Lakes region.

Joyce Award Winner

Marisa Morán Jahn with National Public Housing Museum

Marisa Morán Jahn and National Public Housing Museum are one of the five winners of the 2023 Joyce Awards, which lift up collaborations between artists of color and arts and community organizations throughout the Great Lakes region.

Get the latest on our work in Culture and other programs.

Culture Staff

Mia Khimm

Program Director

Maddie Easton

Program Assistant