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Deepening Chicago’s Investments in the Arts

CitiesChicagoDeepening Chicago’s Investments in the Arts

Through an agency assessment and research on comparative cities, Bloomberg Associates helped the City of Chicago make the case for expanding its funding for arts and culture.


The continued, equitable revitalization of our arts and culture scene remains essential to our ability to recover from this pandemic on a socioeconomic level. I’m proud to increase our grant funding in support of local artists and arts organizations to advance our recovery and bring beauty and life back to our neighborhoods.

Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago

Relevant Expertise

Advance a Vibrant Arts and Creative Sector

  • Grants and Funding Strategies


When Mayor Lightfoot took office in 2019, she framed arts and culture as central to her civic agenda, emphasizing the need to increase access to enriching cultural activities across all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods, not only in downtown Chicago. The City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has long been seen as a national leader, with resources historically focused on producing robust programming in downtown Chicago. Though most DCASE programming is free to the public, the agency’s reach into neighborhoods was often limited to smaller grants to Chicago artists and cultural organizations working in neighborhoods outside of downtown. The local creative sector has pointed to the relative underfunding of the DCASE grant program when compared to municipal arts funding in other U.S. cities of similar stature. 

Mayor Lightfoot visits Chicago Public Library’s first Artist-in-Residence program, at Legler Library. Photo Credit: Heidi Zeiger, City of Chicago
Chicago SummerDance. Photo Credit: Patrick L. Pyszka, City of Chicago


To meet her stated priorities around arts and culture, Mayor Lightfoot engaged Bloomberg Associates to assess the state of Chicago’s investment in the arts and assist with a strategy for improving support for arts and culture across all communities. The team conducted an agency-wide assessment of DCASE, including stakeholder interviews and data analysis from each of the agency’s program areas. Working with DCASE staff, the team was able to identify gaps in service reach and impact particularly in neighborhoods outside of downtown. In addition, the team commissioned comparative research from SMU DataArts that resulted in a finding that arts organizations in other major U.S. cities indeed received proportionally greater city support than Chicago-based organizations.


In September 2021, Mayor Lightfoot announced $26 million in new arts and culture investments. $10 million of this allocation was for a dedicated revenue stream from the City’s corporate budget to guarantee a baseline of funding for cultural grants, which would no longer be subject to the vagaries of hotel tax. The additional $16 million was a one-time investment from federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to be spent by 2024. This budget allocation was informed by the framework Bloomberg Associates had helped the agency develop to make the case for culture as a critical public service. In 2022, DCASE was able to provide significantly larger grants to a greater number of artists and organizations. These unprecedented investments have made Chicago among the top U.S. cities funding arts recovery in the wake of the pandemic and rightsized the city’s ongoing funding for the creative sector.


$26M in new arts and cultural investments

280% increase in funding for the CityArts grant program

40% increase in the number of arts organization grantees

Top photo: Credit: Dorian Sylvain Studio