Author Archive

WGN-TV: Concerts That Provide Music Education For All

Posted December 21, 2023

For West Point School of Music – community and positive impact is high on the priority list, and the concerts they organize are at the heart of doing good. Hear more from founder and president Julian J. Champion, and high school student Te’a Lindsey.

Watch the clip below or click here.

WGN-TV: Preserving Cultural Heritage Of Hispanic Communities

Posted October 11, 2023

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 – Oct 15), Vickie Lakes Battle, Executive Director of IFF’s Chicago Metro Region, had the opportunity to highlight some of the Hispanic organizations that are Chicago’s Cultural Treasures grantees.

Watch the clip below or click here.

Click here to learn more about all of the grantee organizations.

Press Release: 40 BIPOC-led Arts & Culture Organizations from Across Chicago Come Together as Chicago’s Cultural Treasures Grantees

Posted November 29, 2022

Chicago, IL (November 11, 2022) – The 40 BIPOC-led and -focused arts and culture organizations, who have been named Chicago’s Cultural Treasures, came together Thursday, November 10 at Zhou B Art Center alongside the funding partners, the participatory grant committee, and members and lovers of Chicago’s arts and culture landscape, to officially celebrate this recognition and the organizations’ contributions to the history, vibrancy, and identity of Chicago.

Emceed by Angel Idowu, Arts Correspondent at WTTW-TV, the evening began with a recognition program acknowledging each organization. Following the program, a reception was held with music from DJ Lady D and a moving toast from poet, activist, author, and CEO of Urban Gateways, Leslé Honoré.

“Chicago’s Cultural Treasures is about elevating and supporting the people, places, and things that may have previously been unseen to now be seen in a way that is respectful, a way that is dignified, and a way that honors their contributions,” said IFF’s Executive Director for the Chicago metro region, Vickie Lakes-Battle. “It’s an honor to celebrate these 40 organizations and their incredible contributions to the legacy of art and culture in making Chicago a vibrant city.”

Focused on strengthening, growing, and preserving organizations whose mission is to enable the creation, preservation, and dissemination of art stemming from BIPOC traditions, leadership, and culture, Chicago’s Cultural Treasures launched in 2021 as a regional component of the Ford Foundation’s America’s Cultural Treasures. From a theatre company to a dance troupe, a history museum to a cultural center, a visual arts community to a drill team, and more, these grantees represent a diverse group of artforms, neighborhoods, and racial and ethnic backgrounds and traditions.

Many of Chicago’s cultural organizations of color serve as important neighborhood anchors, helping to ensure that experiences and stories are shared and heard. Chicago’s Cultural Treasures, which was co-created with the arts community, aims to ensure these organizations’ sustainability through critical general operating support as well as capacity building assistance.

In January, the next part of the initiative will commence where the grantees will embark on technical assistance offerings covering fundraising, board development, marketing communications, financial management, and facilities planning and support.


Laura Silverman, IFF Director of Communications,

Block Club Chicago: Little Black Pearl Will Open A Coworking Lounge, Launch Workshops For Adult Creatives This Month

Posted October 8, 2021

KENWOOD — A South Side “cultural treasure” that’s spent nearly three decades working with young creatives of color is expanding its Kenwood location with more adult programs.

Little Black Pearl, 1060 E. 47th St., will open a co-working lounge for creatives by the end of October and roll out workshops in the weeks to follow, founder Monica Haslip said.

The lounge is in its “soft launch stage” for the next two weeks, and visitors can explore the space and offer feedback on the programs they’d like to see hosted there, Haslip said.

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Photo Credit: Armand Morris/Block Club Chicago

40 of Chicago’s BIPOC arts organizations receive $14.4MM

Posted July 16, 2021

Chicago’s Cultural Treasures is very pleased to announce $14.4 million in grant funding to 40 organizations that contribute to the history, culture, vibrancy, and identity of communities of color in greater Chicago:

Additional information follows.

New $8 million donation to serve Chicago’s BIPOC arts groups

Posted June 17, 2021

“Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health.”

That’s how philanthropist MacKenzie Scott described the importance of arts groups in her most recent giving announcement. Chicago’s Cultural Treasures was one of 286 equity-oriented nonprofit teams that she chose for a large, unrestricted grant – in our case, $8 million.

These funds represent a nearly 50% increase in our total investment in Chicago’s BIPOC arts organizations – going from $16.75 million to $24.75 million.

Of course, we are thrilled to have a lot more dollars to invest in Chicago’s diverse arts and culture community. But we’re also pleased that Ms. Scott’s ethos so aligns with our approach to seek greater equity in funding art that reflects the full diversity of American culture – and to do so by yielding power to the very communities most impacted by our funding decisions.

We know you may have questions about how this money will be spent. We don’t have the answers yet. We wanted to share this information with you as soon as possible, and to let you know we’d be coming back to you later with more information.

In the meantime, our grant committee — 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 — are working diligently to determine our first group of grantees, which will be announced in July.

LOI Findings: Chicago’s arts and culture community presents great diversity, varied needs

Posted April 1, 2021

Chicago’s Cultural Treasures launched in December 2020 announcing several bold goals.

We vowed to achieve greater equity in funding art by supporting organizations that reflect the diversity of American culture. As a collaboration between the Ford Foundation, several local philanthropies, and IFF, we will do so by funding organizations whose mission is to facilitate the creation, preservation, and dissemination of art stemming from the traditions, leadership, and cultures of people of color.

We pledged to operate in a different manner, co-creating the initiative with arts and culture organizations and providing multi-year general operating support. We recognize that arts organizations—especially those that celebrate and preserve cultural traditions and those that are led by people of color—are facing unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, many have been underfunded for decades, facing financial struggles long before the pandemic.

We designed an initial process that will inform all that follows, inviting organizations to submit a letter of inquiry (LOI) that described their strengths and assets, as well as their current challenges. We received 148 submissions by the January 2021 deadline.

Fulfilling a commitment to openness and transparency, we are sharing with you what we learned from those submissions – and how we will develop the next phase of the initiative.

“Your work is something everyone needs to see:” Why Chicago arts groups should apply

Posted January 15, 2021

The National Museum of Mexican Art is 1 of the 20 organizations across the country designated by the Ford Foundation as an American Cultural Treasure — “a significant national anchor for artistic and cultural diversity in America.” The museum is the only Chicago-based organization to receive such a designation, which comes with significant general operating support.

Chicago’s Cultural Treasures is building on this initiative with grant funding and programming for Chicago-based BIPOC arts and cultural organizations. Here’s what Carlos Tortolero, the founder and president of the museum, has to say about how the grant is making a difference for his organization and why other BIPOC-identified arts leaders should consider applying to the initiative.