Additional Information
About the Grantees

Aggregate data. These organizations represent a broad cross section of artforms, neighborhoods, and racial and ethnic backgrounds and traditions. They have served their communities from 10-65 years, and their 3-year rolling average budgets range from $24,000 to $11 million. Some additional data follows in the charts:


Award Size. Awards ranged from $140,000 to $575,000 and are intended to significantly enhance the organizations’ abilities to bring their chosen artforms to their target communities. These organizations were informed of their grants just prior to this announcement.

Total Giving. Those of you who’ve followed us closely may have noticed that this total giving exceeds our original plans in both total dollars and total number of organizations – originally set at $13.75 million to 20-30 organizations, and ending up at $14.4 million to 40 organizations. These increases were due to the number of organizations that met the criteria established by our Grant Committee.

Grant Committee. The Grant Committee was comprised of a diverse group of community members, civic leaders, and artists whose common denominator is an appreciation for how art fits into the fabric of community in the Chicagoland region. These individuals were selected through an open nomination process held earlier in 2021. Their names and bios are included below.

Selection Criteria. Chicago’s Cultural Treasures issued a broad invitation for Chicago-area BIPOC arts groups to submit a letter of intent (LOI), which was intended to inform both the Grants Program as well as subsequent programming that’s still being developed. Of the 148 LOIs submitted, the 83 organizations that had been in existence for more than 10 years were invited to apply for grants.

The Grant Committee then created a two-stage review process. During the first stage, they screened for organizations based on the following criteria:

  • Is the organization BIPOC-led?  BIPOC leadership was defined based on several criteria including:
    • Who is the stated organizational leader/senior leadership?
    • What is the Board composition?
    • Who is making decisions for the organization?
    • Is there a consistent history of BIPOC leadership?
  • Is the organization BIPOC-focused? BIPOC-focused was defined as a mission rooted in advancing, creating, disseminating , and/or preserving arts/culture rooted in communities of color.
  • Is arts/culture a primary focus of the organization? A primary focus was defined as central to their mission and a significant focus of their organizational activities.

During the second stage, the Grant Committee looked at which of the applicants could be considered a “cultural treasure,” as defined by the following:

  • BIPOC Representation/Focus: A historic and current pattern of the organization being led by, featuring, and serving a specific/defined community of color
  • BIPOC Mission: A focus on stewarding and sustaining artistic and/or cultural traditions rooted in a specific/defined community of color and elevating awareness of that community’s contribution to American culture
  • Reach: Effectively reaching the specific/defined community of color it serves
  • Role in Community: An indispensable anchor for the specified/defined community of color contributing to the history, culture, vibrancy, and identity of that community in greater Chicago
  • History of Community Impact: Significant history of impact within their specified/defined community of color
  • Potential for Future Impact: Strong potential for future impact within their specified/defined community of color

Notably, almost all of the organizations that met the first stage of eligibility criteria are receiving awards. Also notably, these criteria acknowledge types of cultural treasures that have historically been passed over for traditional forms of grant support. Neither the Grant Committee, nor this initiative, claim to be identifying a comprehensive list of the numerous cultural treasures across the City of Chicago.

Timeline. Chicago’s Cultural Treasures was launched in December 2020 and solicited Letters of Intent (LOI) that were due in January 2021. The LOI process was intended not only to solicit interest in our Grants Program, but also to gather information on the needs and make-up of Chicago’s BIPOC-led arts and culture community. Our hope is that the information gathered during this process will inform other components of the Chicago’s Cultural Treasures initiative, which will include not only grants but also capacity building and technical assistance co-created with the arts community. More information on these programs will be announced at a later date.

Nominations for the Grant Committee were also due in January 2021. Throughout the Spring and early Summer, these committee members worked hard to build relationships with each other, develop criteria, analyze applications, and hold robust discussions to determine grantees and grant amounts.

About Us. The primary goal of Chicago’s Cultural Treasures is to support organizations whose mission is to enable the creation, preservation, and dissemination of art stemming from BIPOC traditions, leadership, and culture. This support will take several forms, beginning with our Grant Program and growing into tailored capacity building and technical assistance. The best place to learn more about us is

Our Funders & Administrators. IFF, a nonprofit financial institution that helps other nonprofits achieve financial stability through the nexus of facilities and finance, is administering this initiative. As of June 2021, a total of $24.75 million has been committed to Chicago’s Cultural Treasures, which includes:

Lessons learned – Coming Soon. We wanted to inform grantees, as well as all of our followers, of these grant awards as soon as possible with as much transparency as possible. As part of our commitment to transparency, we also want to share out lessons learned from our grantmaking approach, which was intended to be both participatory and community-led. In the near future, we will be sharing a series of blogs from various perspectives from inside the process – including, most likely, some of our foundation supporters, our administrators at IFF, and members of the Grant Committee.


Grant Committee Members

Michelle Bibbs. Michelle Bibbs has led fundraising programs at nonprofit cultural institutions, universities and human services agencies and grant making programs in the public sector. Her career includes roles at the Goodman Theatre and the DuSable Museum of African American History, balanced by service on grant review panels for city and state arts agencies across the Midwest, including Chicago and Illinois. At the City of Chicago, Michelle led Cultural Grants programs in the Department of Cultural Affairs (now DCASE) awarding nearly $2M annually in operating, project, capacity-building and professional development funding to over 450 nonprofit organizations and professional artists. Under her leadership, the department partnered with the Chicago Community Trust and the Wallace Foundation in a four-year grant and capacity building initiative to benefit over 200 Chicago area nonprofit and commercial arts organizations. Michelle is former adjunct faculty in the Management Department at Columbia College Chicago and has guest lectured for the Fundraising Capacity Building Institute/Nonprofit Executive Education Program at Kellogg. She is a past board member of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago and auxiliary volunteer at DuSable Museum. Michelle is a consultant for The Alford Group, a national firm of consultants to nonprofits and philanthropies, and has an independent consulting practice. A native Chicagoan, Michelle grew up in a family that believed cultural activity and arts experiences were essential to a well-rounded upbringing and continues to enjoy and promote them. Chicago’s Cultural Treasures was a too-important-to miss opportunity to join a participatory approach to elevating the dedication of organizations that for decades have been culture keepers and innovators yet escaped attention, and to be an accomplice in directing impactful philanthropic investment to advance their unique and valued places in our communities and in the quality of life which defines our city.

Don Clark. Don Clark is an author and theatrical and film arts entrepreneur. His memoir, “Summary Judgment,” will be published on September 7, 2021. Clark was the Executive Producer of the award-winning feature film “Guest Artist,” written by and starring Jeff Daniels. A new play he is producing, “When Harry Met Rehab,” will premiere on December 5, 2021 at the Greenhouse Theatre Center. Clark co-owns the Chicago Magic Lounge—a nightlife venue that is top rated on TripAdvisor and one of “Chicago’s Best” according to Chicago Magazine. Clark began his professional career as a trial attorney at some of Chicago’s most venerable law firms. He became the General Counsel for the United Church of Christ, a Protestant religious denomination with 5,000 churches headquartered in Cleveland, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Crain’s Cleveland Business—an award “honoring the best legal minds representing Northeast Ohio’s public, private, nonprofit and government organizations.” Clark received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary where he served as Chair of its Board of Trustees and Acting President and remains a Life Trustee. His civic engagements include a term as Chair of the Board of the Adler Planetarium, where he continues to serve as a Life Trustee.

Noemi Garcia. Noemi Garcia (she/her) is passionate about strengthening organizations, creating opportunities for social impact, and advancing more equitable practices in the nonprofit sector. She’s worked as a nonprofit administrator and capacity builder for more than a decade in Chicago. As an independent consultant, Noemi currently works with local foundations and nonprofit organizations. She also serves as Vice Chair of the Snow City Arts Auxiliary Board and is a member of the Women of Color United Giving Council through the Chicago Foundation for Women. She previously led the nonprofit management consulting and board governance training programs at the Arts & Business Council of Chicago. When she’s not working, Noemi enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hanging out at her favorite local breweries, and planning her next adventure.

Juana Guzman. For more than 39 years, Ms. Guzman has championed the promotion and preservation of the arts, culture, heritage and as a catalyst for diverse American populations. Since 1980, Ms. Guzman has developed and implemented strategies that focused on artists and organizational capacity building, community engagement, strategic and cultural planning, diversity training in the workplace, entrepreneurialism, fundraising in the public and private sectors, creative place-making and place-keeping in diverse communities of color, tourism lead by diverse communities, as well as facility development initiatives for non-profit organizations. Ms. has served as the Director of Community Development for the Department of Cultural Affairs in the City of Chicago, former Vice-President of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Ms. Guzman is current serving as an Associate Consultant for the Bloomberg, Philanthropies ”Arts Innovation and Management Program (AIM).” Juana Guzman and Pedro Rodriquez, San Antonio, Texas Co-Founded the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture established in 1989. She served as the Board Chair from 1990 to 1995.

Catherine Jackson. Catherine Jackson is the Executive Director of Woodlawn Restorative Justice Hub. Inc., which works with youth who are directly impacted by violence. Catherine is dedicated to advocating for youth development, organizational development, and meeting the needs of the community. Previously, Catherine worked as Community Project Coordinator of Black Star Project, Executive Director of Rockford Mayor’s office of Drug-Free Community Partnership, Booker Washington Community Center, and CEO and Founder PSALMS (Prophetic Servant Agape Leadership). Catherine serves as the Associate Pastor of ABA Church of Renewed Faith. She began her career working with nonprofit organizations in leadership development. She has over 30 years of community service as a social justice advocate. She intuitively sees the threads of opportunity that wind through an organization and brings them together into servant leadership lenses in the philosophy of Ubuntu.

Michelle Kennedy. Michelle Kennedy is the Founder, Executive Director and Co-Producer of the Chicago South Side Film Festival, a nonprofit Arts & Culture organization. The CSSFF’s two-part mission is to provide opportunities for South Side filmmakers to screen their work in their own communities, and to use film as a tool for collective intellectual and social engagement. Michelle is a native of Chicago’s South Side.

Emily Liao Master. Born in Canada and raised in New York as the only child of first-generation Taiwanese immigrants, Emily Liao Master has made metro Chicago her home for the last 20 years. Her professional experience spans executive management, marketing, communications, operations, revenue growth, and strategic and program planning for for-profit, nonprofit, and governmental organizations. For many years, her professional home was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Emily also served as Chief of Staff for the US head of one of the largest global executive search and leadership advisory firms, working on a range of strategic and operational initiatives, including the firm’s nonprofit and diversity and inclusion practices. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority while also regularly advising and designing programs for nonprofits and institutions of higher learning in the areas of fundraising, strategic planning, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Following 8 years of pre-professional studies in piano, viola, and organ at the Juilliard School, Emily received her AB in Music cum laude from Princeton University and her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She also completed executive education at the Guanghua School of Management (China), IPADE Business School (Mexico), and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice in arts and culture strategy.

Nalani McClendon. Nalani McClendon is a consultant who has been involved in the nonprofit sector with a particular commitment to communities, education and equity. She has experience working across the Chicago metropolitan area and has built multi-ethnic and coalitions and programs. She is a consultant to organizations and small businesses.

Meida McNeal. Meida Teresa McNeal is Artistic/Managing Director of Honey Pot Performance. She received her PhD in Performance Studies (Northwestern) and her MFA in Choreography & Dance History (Ohio State). Awards include the 3Arts Award in Dance, Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist, and the Links’ Hall Co-Missions Fellowship. An Independent Artist and Scholar at the intersection of performance studies, dance, and critical ethnography, Meida is part-time faculty in Art & Art History at Columbia College Chicago and The Theatre & Performance Studies program at the University of Chicago. She is also Arts & Culture Manager with the Chicago Park District supporting a team to implement community arts partnerships, youth arts, cultural stewardship, and civic engagement initiatives across the city’s parks and cultural centers.

Maria Miranda. Maria Miranda is dedicated to advancing equitable arts, cultural, and educational opportunities for BILPOC youth. Currently, she is Associate Director of Development at Communities In Schools of Chicago, one of the city’s leading organizations dedicated to promoting high school graduation for more than 65,000 Chicago Public School students. Maria oversees Development Operations and Institutional Giving, which inspires philanthropy and helps CIS achieve its mission to surround students with a community of support, empowering young people to stay in school and achieve in life. Maria’s career includes leadership roles at Changing Worlds, which fosters inclusive communities through the arts, oral history, and writing. She was responsible for cultivating and stewarding relationships with foundations, corporations, and individuals in support of educational arts programming for BILPOC youth. Maria is Vice-Chair of the ECCO Studios Board of Directors. Located in Los Angeles, ECCO Studios provides young people of color with training, resources, and meaningful opportunities to explore career pathways in design, urban planning, green building, and architecture. Formerly, she was the Board Chair of Tcep in Chicago, which mobilizes youth and adults in social justice work and builds collective power for the Mexican and Mexican-American Community.

Margaret Murphy-Webb. Margaret Murphy-Webb is the co-founder and Executive Director of The South Side Jazz Coalition. She is a graduate of Chicago State University with a B.M. in Music Performance and an award-winning international jazz vocalist. Named Chicago’s Jazz Hero in 2018 for her work in revitalizing jazz on the south side and presenting free community programs, Margaret is also a member of the Chicago Peace Fellows dedicated to community service and advocacy. She is the co-chair for 2021 Year of Chicago Music under DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly and in January 2020 was appointed to the City of Chicago Cultural Council.

Pranita Nayar. Pranita Nayar is a Bharatanatyam artist and dance ethnographer with over 25 years of expertise in choreography, performance, teaching, curating and the production of festivals. She has been a resident of the Chicago land area since 1991, where she has taken on a cultural leadership role in the growing South Asian community. Having managed nonprofit organizations since 1995, she has brought her expertise in fundraising and program growth.  Over the years she has developed and implemented cross-cultural programs within diverse communities. of Chicago. She has a proven her ability to work effectively with students, educators, and professionals from diverse backgrounds.

Jennifer Novak-Leonard. Jennifer Novak-Leonard, PhD, is Research Associate Professor and Research Director of the Arts Impact Initiative in the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work focuses on the social roles of arts, artists, and creativity; how they impact people and communities; and implications for policy and practice. She specializes in the development and use of novel measurement systems to understand cultural participation and the personal and public values derived from these experiences to inform multiple domains of public and social policy. Her research examines racial, ethnic, and socio-economic inequities in outcomes and opportunities for arts, artists, and movements toward cultural democracy.

Melissa O’Dell. Melissa O’Dell is the Executive Director of Defy Ventures Illinois and has been on the Defy Ventures team for the last six years in various roles of responsibility. Most recently, prior to her position as Executive Director, Melissa was the Vice President of Programs on the national team. Melissa received her BA from Franklin and Marshall College in Government and Women’s Studies and a Master’s degree from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in Social Work and Public Policy. She spent seven years at the Center for Court Innovation working to provide new opportunities to individuals involved in the criminal justice system and increase the efficacy of the judiciary. From there, Melissa served as the founding Program Director of the Community Assessment and Services Center in San Francisco, a large-scale reentry resource hub, assisting clients on probation returning from incarceration. Melissa was also an adjunct lecturer in the MPA program at San Francisco State University and is the Chairwoman of the Board for NYC TOGETHER.

Deirdre O’Rourke. Deirdre O’Rourke holds a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Pittsburgh with doctoral certificates in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She was the recipient of an American Association for University Women (AAUW) Dissertation Completion Fellowship for her work on actresses in the Restoration and the social and stage performance of gender and power. She has successfully taught courses in performance, dramatic analysis, Shakespeare, and world theatre history and served as dramaturg on several productions. Deirdre currently works as Grants Manager for Girls in the Game, a nonprofit headquartered in Chicago that provides sports, health, and leadership programming for girls. It was humbling and inspiring to learn from her fellow committee members who possess a wealth of expertise in and passion for BIPOC arts and culture in Chicago. Congratulations to all the grantees of Chicago’s Cultural Treasures program. Thank you for your persistence in nourishing BIPOC artists, audiences, leaders, and traditions in the face of systemic racism.

Anne Smith. Anne Smith has been an actor and creator in Chicago’s theatre community for 25 years and counting. She also has nearly two decades of non-profit fundraising experience as a development professional, serving a number of Chicago’s communities in need, through organizations such as Reading In Motion and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Today, as a development consultant and the Vice President of Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt, she uses her hands-on experience to deliver a range of fundraising and development services to a broad spectrum of client organizations within the non-profit sector, including arts and cultural institutions. Among them, she has had the privilege of delivering counsel and training to a number of BIPOC arts and culture organizations through the MacArthur Funds for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Anne also teaches Major Gift Fundraising at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies. She joined this community-based grant committee through a nomination process and drew upon her extensive knowledge and experience as an artist and nonprofit professional in the city she grew up in. It has been her honor to participate in this thoughtful and deliberative process to elevate and sustain a segment of Chicago’s Cultural Treasures.

Carlos Tortelero. Carlos is the founder and president of the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMAA), the only Latino museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Since opening in 1987, the museum has become a national model for its exhibits, performances, arts education programs and advocacy on cultural equity issues. From 1975–1987, Tortolero worked as a teacher, counselor and administrator in the Chicago Public School System. He has served on numerous boards, including those of the University of Illinois, American Alliance of Museums, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Smithsonian Latino Center, Illinois Humanities Council and Choose Chicago (Chicago’s tourism and convention board). Tortolero is the co-author of Mexican Chicago, a well-received photo history book about the Mexican community of Chicago, and has written articles for national and international publications. He has also taught classes at University of Illinois at Chicago, The School of the Art Institute and Northwestern University. Tortolero has a B.A. in secondary education and history from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.A. in bilingual education supervision from Chicago State University.

Andrea Yarbrough. Andrea is a Chicago-based educator, maker, and curator. Her research asks how we might reactivate neglected spaces as sites of care through a blend of art praxis, civic engagement, and urban agriculture.

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