Cook County Announces $790,000 in Relief Grants to Suburban Nonprofit Arts Organizations

Cook County Announces $790,000 in Relief Grants to Suburban Nonprofit Arts Organizations
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Cook County Announces $790,000 in Relief Grants to Suburban Nonprofit Arts Organizations (Cook County, IL) — Cook County Government announced last week that $790,000 in grants have been awarded to 100 nonprofit arts and culture organizations in suburban communities through the Cook County Arts Nonprofit Relief Grants program.

Cook County Arts is a $5 million pilot arts initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The pilot focuses on mitigating the lingering negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening the suburban arts sector in the long term.

“Culture and creativity serve as critical elements in thriving communities—that’s why Cook County is supporting these vital organizations. They are essential community assets that foster human connection, joyful exchange and innovative thinking,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Suburban nonprofit arts organizations have not had access to significant COVID recovery resources, and Cook County is proud to fill this gap for our local economy and cultural sector.”

Program eligibility required applicants to have an active 501(c)(3) determination from the Internal Revenue Service along with a certificate of Good Standing from the Illinois Secretary of State Office; an official business address in suburban Cook; a primary mission to create, produce, present, provide or support arts and culture activities or services for the public; active operations before March 12, 2020; and total expenses of at least $20,000 in the fiscal year ending in 2019.

Grant award amounts were based on an organization’s annual expenses in 2019: $5,000 for organizations with expenses between $20,000 and $100,000, and $10,000 for organizations with expenses over $100,000.

Grantees come from over 30 municipalities throughout suburban Cook County and represent an array of disciplines, from theater to dance, from history to arts education, and more.

Some grantees have already identified where Cook County funds will have a major impact.

Martha Shuford, Board President of Big Noise Theatre in Des Plaines, stated that funds will go to purchase needed materials and equipment.

With a mission “to deepen a human connection between audience members, performing artists, and creative staff by telling stories, sharing knowledge, and fostering social inclusion,” Big Noise Theatre’s history goes back 50 years.

“[This funding moves] us closer toward our goal of being able to overhaul our microphone and sound system to continue providing top level entertainment for the Des Plaines community and spread the love of live theater!” Shuford said.

The Trickster Art Gallery, in Schaumburg, will use the grant to keep its programming accessible. With a mission of increasing the visibility of Native American traditions, the organization offers a range of programs that includes arts exhibitions, cultural workshops, educational events and community gatherings.

“By providing a platform for Native voices and fostering cross-cultural dialogue, Trickster plays a crucial role in celebrating and sustaining indigenous traditions and knowledge. This funding will help us continue to offer our youth and family camps without financial barriers to our families,” said executive director Gina Roxas.

The Cook County Bureau of Economic Development is leading Cook County Arts, which focuses on suburban communities due to artists and organizations there being ineligible for funding from the City of Chicago.

The application process for the Nonprofit Relief Grants opened in January 2024, officially starting Cook County Arts programming.

The County also plans to invest $2.3 million to launch a suburban placemaking program and continue to support the arts and culture sector.

In establishing Cook County Arts, Cook County recognized that the arts and culture sector was among the hardest-hit industries of the pandemic, and organizations continue to face significant challenges due to changing operational needs and declines in both earned and contributed revenue.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), after adjusting for inflation, the value added to the U.S. economy by performing arts centers, including festivals, fell by nearly 73 percent between 2019 and 2020. In Illinois, employment in the arts sector fell 12 percent during the same period.

The NEA also reports that the value added by performing arts organizations is still below the pre-pandemic level.

Cook County has partnered with Arts Alliance Illinois to create Cook County Arts. For the Nonprofit Relief Grants program, Arts Alliance Illinois conducted outreach to nonprofit organizations, hosted informational workshops and provided technical assistance to applicants.

“We are thrilled to partner with Cook County to provide this needed support to suburban Cook nonprofit cultural organizations,” said Arts Alliance Illinois Executive Director Claire Rice. “We look forward to continuing our work with the county to build arts and cultural infrastructure and support mechanisms.”

Allies for Community Business served as the grant administrator on the Nonprofit Relief Grants effort.

For more information, including a full list of grant recipients, visit the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development website or cookcountyarts.org.

Cook County Announces $790,000 in Relief Grants to Suburban Nonprofit Arts Organizations

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