ThreeWalls Nabs $1.2 Million, 3 Year Award to Expand Support for Underfunded Artists in Chicago

In-Session Maya Mackrandilal with Bhanu Kapil, Enid Muñoz, and Udita Upadhyaya

Via PR

Threewalls announced that the organization has received a $1.2 million award from Surdna Foundation, enabling the non-profit organization to dedicate $300,000 per year for three years to further develop its already expansive programs helping to fund and develop projects from ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American) identifying artists based in Chicago. Threewalls’ social justice fellowship, RaD Lab+Outside the Walls, will expand to support 12 artists per year with grants of $25,000, focusing on community-oriented research and public projects that reimagine racial justice and equity. The program was founded in 2017 to address the disproportionally inadequate funding and artistic support ALAANA artists typically receive.

The multi-year nature of the grant opens up an expansive realm of possibilities for Threewalls to invest in artists and creatives who use radical imagination to practice a racially just society. The $900,000 will allow Threewalls to support  ALAANA creative projects and non-profits with operational funding. All of the fellows will demonstrate alternative ways towards racial equity through the lens of radical imagination and social justice.

The RaD+Outside the Walls program allows fellows to spend a year researching, developing and testing an idea that responds to the lived experience. Outside the Walls, Threewalls’ exhibition model, presents the research as installations and interventions throughout Chicago in various neighborhoods. Outside the Walls prides itself on placing art in public spaces that do not typically host art exhibitions and are easily accessible to the public.

Jeffreen Hayes


“We are thrilled about our partnership with Surdna Foundation. It will help Threewalls continue to support so many Black Artists and Artists of Color in a holistic way for the next three years and beyond,” said Jeffreen M. Hayes, executive director at Threewalls. “It is my hope that this program will inspire big ideas from Chicago-based artists in the ALAANA community in advancing a racially just society. The radical imagination that Surdna encourages is what Threewalls practices every day.”

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Threewalls under the creative genius and leadership of Dr. Jeffreen Hayes!” said F. Javier Torres-Campos, Director of the Thriving Cultures program at the Surdna Foundation. “Dr. Hayes’ vision and track record of collaborative leadership have taught us about the real impact that is possible when we invest in the cultural assets of our communities with racial equity at the center of our approach.”

Fellows will be selected through an open call process to open in January 2020 and reviewed by an external community-based panel. The community-based panel of five individuals will be a majority of Chicago-based individuals who identify as members of an ALAANA community. The panel will be designed to feature people actively involved in artistic work in this community, including program directors, assistants and teaching artists. Before the call opens in January, Threewalls will host two information sessions—one in October and one in November—to share more about the fellowship.

In addition to the all-important funding, Threewalls offers technical and creative development assistance through the fellowship to include digital coaching sessions, creative counseling, and ethics workshops. Threewalls also works to handle any logistical problems, including securing the public spaces for the artwork to be shown and working with other groups in the city to gauge their interest in promoting and displaying the installations.

About the Surdna Foundation

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States -- communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. Learn more at

About Threewalls

Threewalls was founded in 2003 to provide support and visibility for the visual arts community in Chicago. The founders wanted to encourage a greater awareness of Chicago’s art scene by inviting emerging professional artists to share in the city’s rich histories, resources and creative communities. Over the past fifteen years, Threewalls has been a center for artist-focused programming, critical writing, and direct support for artist projects. Threewalls hosts artists interested in working in and with diverse Chicago communities through their RaD Lab program; supports interactive work by local and regional artists in Outside the Walls; and programs salons to generate open dialogue, the presentation of new ideas and the publication of new writing. Threewalls partners with other organizations on exhibitions, publications, and education programs in an effort to broaden and contribute to the contemporary visual arts. For more information about Threewalls, visit