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Smart Growth, Resilient Roots for Neighborhood Arts Nonprofits

Smart growth, resilient roots: $30M in grants over 4 yrs to help strengthen small, diverse Chicago cultural orgs - because all neighborhoods deserve affordable access to #arts Tweet This

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Affordable, accessible opportunities to experience the arts are vital assets for every community.

That’s the inspiration behind The Chicago Community Trust’s SMART Growth grant program, which has been strengthening Chicago’s small, diverse arts and cultural organizations since 2006. Today the Trust announced the 29 nonprofits that will form the next SMART Growth class, receiving a collective $30 million in grants over the next four years.

SMART Growth helps small cultural organizations engage their board and staff in strengthening management practices that effectively support their missions, enabling them to contribute to their communities and to the cultural makeup of the region.

“Arts and culture play an important role in making neighborhoods throughout our Chicago region more vibrant places to live, work and visit,” says Sandra Aponte, program officer for arts and culture at The Chicago Community Trust. “The strength of our region’s cultural vitality is rooted in the diverse landscape of community-based arts and cultural organizations like the ones that participate in SMART Growth.”

The 2018 SMART Growth class:

A signature program of the Trust, SMART Growth provides an individualized assessment of each nonprofit by the Arts & Business Council of Chicago, evaluating critical business functions such as their financial management, income generation and board governance. It also provides organizations with training in the SMART Growth methodology, as well as three years of general operating grants for support as they work to build practices that shore up their sustainability.

“The SMART Growth methodology empowers artistic founders, board members and staff leaders to recognize strength and reallocate their limited resources towards lagging management areas, so that the organization’s foundation is solid and they can be resilient in the face of challenges like the loss of a founder, changing demographics or economic shifts,” Aponte says.

Small, community-based arts and cultural organizations with an operating budget of less than $1 million in Cook County were invited to apply for the SMART Growth grant program.

Established in 2006, SMART Growth counts a total of 99 local cultural organizations as alumni of the program to date.