Foundation Friday: A New Grantmaker

Good news from Chicago: 3Arts, formerly a residence for women artists called the 3 Arts Club, has reinvented itself as a grantmaker providing "cash support that goes directly to artists, residency fellowships, an organizational grant given to up to three nonprofits for their support of women artists, and sponsorship of events and programs that showcase artists."

Several aspects of the 3Arts story invite praise:

  • This was an organization whose original model–residence for women artists–had been rendered obsolete by a number of social, economic and real estate development factors.  So its Board made some years of good-faith effort to reinvent the residence, and then finally went all the way and reinvented the agency.  It sold the building and plowed the proceeds into support for artists–maintaining the original purpose but in a form suitable to contemporary life.  Bravo (or, mostly in this case, brava)!   A truly courageous set of choices.
  • 3Arts examined arts funding in Chicago and noticed that it’s least available to artists–the people without whom there would be no art.  Having found a niche, it promptly occupied it, focusing its grantmaking precisely where the need is greatest.
  • In keeping with its original mission to aid under-supported artists, 3Arts will focus its grants on women, people of color and people with disabilities working in music, theater and visual arts.  This straightforward statement contrasts beautifully with the usual namby-pamby language about "diversity."  3Arts will support those who need supporting and assure that those who have been silenced will be heard.

The Nonprofiteer has watched the 3Arts transformation from afar.  She was enthusiastic about the plan to reinvent the building as a cultural center, and disappointed when it collapsed.  But she’d be hard-pressed to think of a more welcome addition to the Chicago arts scene than a grantmaker with this mission, this clearly stated, at this time.

Note: 3Arts Artist Awards are by nomination only, in recognition of the group’s lean staff.  Details about its other awards at


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