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Cultural Fund Grant Program

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2020-2021 Application Cycle is now open! The guidelines have changed. Previous submitted applications will not be considered; please resubmit an application.

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The application process and criteria for evaluation for the Cultural Fund Grant program have been revised and simplified for this year, to reflect both the impact of the pandemic and a heightened focus on racial equity.

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Important Dates

 July 27, 2020  Grant Cycle Opens
 August 5, 2020  6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Virtual Cultural Funds Grant workshop (attendance optional)
 August 6, 2020  12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Virtual Cultural Funds Grant workshop (attendance optional)
 August 31, 2020  Submission deadline
 October 3, 2020  Reviewing panel meets virtually
 October 13, 2020  Arts Council allocates funds to grant recipients
 June 30, 2021  Grant monies to be spent
 July 31, 2021  Final report due



Apply now!

You may also view a preview of the cultural fund application. Please note that narrative questions have a 3,000 word limit.

Guidelines and Eligibility


The Evanston Arts Council was established by mandate of the Evanston City Council in 1975 to provide leadership and advocacy for the promotion, development, and accessibility of the arts and to create opportunities for artistic excellence in our community. The goal of the Cultural Fund Grant Program is to sustain and advance our community’s arts industry. Evanston’s vision for its Cultural Fund Program is to activate the extraordinary assets of the community to develop Evanston as an arts hub and destination.

By providing financial assistance to arts organizations, the Cultural Fund supports artistic excellence throughout the community. The Arts Council strongly encourages the development of broader participation by Evanston’s diverse cultural community through collaborative efforts among artists, arts organizations, and the greater community.


Cultural Fund Grant Categories

Given the impact of the pandemic, there is just one granting category in the Cultural Arts Program this year. The maximum grant request is $3,000, although the actual grant award may be less than that. Community arts organizations are invited to apply, as well as those with 501(c)3 status (for-profit entities, religious entities, and organizations not working with the arts are not eligible). Applications from Black, Indigenous and People Of Color (BIPOC) organizations, and projects or programs that serve underserved demographics and communities, will be favored. Collaborations that bring the community together are encouraged.

Funding is awarded to arts organizations based in or serving Evanston, for operating support, capacity-building, programs or projects. Both 501(c)3 and community arts organizations are invited to apply.


All grants will be paid in full upon receipt of all required agreements and documentation of insurance coverage.

All grant fund expenditures must be incurred between October 14, 2020 and June 30, 2021.



  1. All grant recipients are required to submit a written final report, due no later than July 31, 2021, as a condition of grant award.
  2. Any grantee not completing a grant as approved by the Arts Council will not be eligible to apply for a grant in the year following notification of unsuccessful grant completion.
  3. Organizations should place a high priority on community access. Wherever possible, grant applicant should demonstrate strategies for outreach to underserved or at-risk members of the community.
  4. Applicants must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and assure the Arts Council that no person will be excluded from participation or be denied the benefits of any program or service on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, or ability.
  5. All applicants are advised that litigation with or indebtedness to the City of Evanston may preclude the applicant’s ability to receive grant funds.


  • Capital improvements or construction costs
  • Organizations whose activities occur in non-accessible venues
  • Purchase of permanent equipment
  • Grants in excess of 25% of the organization’s prior year operating income
  • An existing deficit from a previous year or project
  • Activities not open to the general public
  • Scholarships or fundraising events
  • Personal expenses such as child care and unrelated wages lost due to proposed project commitment
  • Applicants that submit incomplete applications
  • Applicants that are taxing bodies (including schools, libraries and park district)
  • Organizations that are not located in Evanston or whose project service areas are not Evanston
  • Food or drinks


The applicant organization must demonstrate their efforts to realize the Equity in the Arts Goals set by the Arts Council. The goals are to:

  • Promote equity and inclusion throughout the arts in Evanston, regardless of gender, race, ethnic background, age, ability or sexual orientation.
  • Ensure that the cultural arts programs the Council supports reflect the diversity of the Evanston community.
  • Make the arts accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.

According to state and federal law, every recipient of public funding must place itself in the position of being able to provide reasonable accommodations when persons with disabilities make requests for services. Accessibility involves both the location and the content of the proposal. In accepting a grant from the Evanston Arts Council, organizations agree to make every attempt to ensure that the proposed project is accessible to persons with disabilities.


The applicant must complete the following application process to be considered eligible for a Cultural Fund grant:

  • Complete the online application with an electronic signature of the authorizing official on the Statement of Assurances.
  • Upload the support materials requested.
  • Submit the application by the August 31, 2020 deadline.

Criteria for Panel Review

Applications will be reviewed by peer advisory panelists who are arts professionals in a variety of disciplines. The panel will consist mainly of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals, to ensure an equity lens is applied. Panelist recommendations will be reviewed by the Arts Council in October. The Arts Council will then present its recommendation to the City Council for final approval in October. The advisory panel reviews and evaluates applications. The evaluation includes both a scoring system and written panel comments. The bullets under each criterion are examples of issues the advisory panel may consider. These bullets do not represent the only means of evaluating the criteria but are provided as a guide to the panelists. They may not apply to every application and do not individually have a specific point value. Each application is individually rated and the resulting score determines the application’s ranking. This year, for health and safety reasons, applicants will not be able to attend the reviewing panels.  


Organization’s Artistic Goals and Strength of Programming or Project:  30%

  • The artistic quality of the work, service or project.
  • Artistic goals expressed with clarity and purpose. 

Impact on Evanston (especially underserved communities) :  35%       

  • How many people in Evanston are served and what needs are being met.
  • Impact on underserved communities and demographics will be favored.
  • Collaborations that bring the community together are encouraged.

Intended use of Grant Funds: 35%

  • Demonstrated need for funds
  • Strength of plans to utilize funds effectively

Judges Forms

View judges form here.



  1. Is there any tutoring or assistance offered for the Cultural Fund Grant process?
    Yes. There will be two optional workshops for the Cultural Fund Grant, which that will take place on:

    Wednesday, August 5, 2020, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
    Join via Zoom video
    Join via phone: 312-626-6799
    Meeting ID: 923 0690 4289
    Passcode: 296916

    Thursday, August 6, 2020, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
    Join via Zoom video
    Join via phone: 312-626-6799
    Meeting ID: 991 7823 7629
    Passcode: 524644

    Attendees will receive general information and tips for applying to the grant and will have a chance to ask questions. Registration is required. Click on the video links above to register for your preferred session.
  2. Do I need to download any software or documents in order to apply?

    No. We use Formstack, which has online forms with fields. You will be asked to upload various files, but will not need to download anything. NOTE: Formstack does not seem to work as well with Safari as other browsers.  We recommend Google Chrome. If you are having trouble submitting, it is most likely a conflict with your browser.

  3. The grant application will not let me go to the next page until the current page is complete.  How do I see the questions ahead of time?  Also, can I start it and then finish it at a later time or date?
    You may type in a few characters to the fields. The form will read that as "answered" and will allow you to move on. When you save your document, the program will send you an email with a link to go back and edit your application. You may do that as many times as needed until you "submit", at which time your application is final. Make sure you check your filter if you do not see the program-generated link to go back.  
  4. All plans are provisional due to the pandemic. What happens if my program, project, budget or plan changes after I have applied or received a grant?
    We understand how hard it is to plan for recovery at this stage. The application demonstrates your intent, and there are factors that may force you to alter your plan, especially given the unknowns in the progress of the pandemic and the timing of recovery.  If you have to make adjustments to your project or budget, you can simply proceed and note them in your final report.  If major changes are necessary, please outline those changes and submit to for advice.

2019-2020 Grant Recipients

Chicago Sculpture International
Evanston Symphony Orchestra
Evanston In-School Music Association
Northlight Theatre
The Musical Offering
Evanston Art Center
Music Institute of Chicago
Mudlark Theater
The Actors Gymnasium
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
Open Studio Project
Evanston Dance Ensemble