City of Chicago Awards Individual Artists Program Grants: 13 Receive $10K

Via PR

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced the recipients of the 2020 Individual Artists Program grants. Each year, the Individual Artists Program supports Chicago's practicing artists in creating work that develops their craft and elevates their careers while adding to the cultural vitality of the city of Chicago. This year, 158 project-based grants between $850 to $5,000 will be awarded to resident Chicago artists over the age of 18 across all artistic disciplines including film & media arts, literary arts, performing arts (theatre/dance), music and visual arts/design. 

In addition to the Individual Artists Program grants,  13 high-qualified artists will receive the Esteemed Artist Award, a special new $10,000 grant for expenses associated with an artist’s practice within the 2020 grant period, including studio rental, supplies, travel and equipment. In celebration of 2020 as the Year of Chicago Music, half of the Esteemed Artist Awards are going to local musicians – Deleatric (Dee) Alexander, Carlos Barahona, Katherine Davis, Steve Dawson, Mabel Kwan, Michael Reed and Larry Taylor. Award recipients in other disciplines are Jason Howard (Performing Arts), Sandra Jackson-Opoku (Literary Arts), Ruth Leitman (Film & Media Arts), Fawzia Mirza (Film & Media Arts), Leticia Pardo Rojo (Visual Arts/Design) and Sadie Woods (Visual Arts/Design). 

“Chicago’s voice is heard around the world through the creativity, innovation, and vision of incredible artists in every one of our 77 neighborhoods,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “From the art they make and culture they create, our artists bring joy to our lives, drive our economy, hold the mirror to our faces, and, of course, they produce works of exquisite beauty. And I am proud of the support these grants will provide these incredible individuals, particularly during this time of crisis and hardship within our artistic community.”

This year, Mayor Lightfoot increased the City of Chicago’s 2020 funding for cultural grants by $1 million, fulfilling a commitment to prioritize equitable grantmaking and microfinancing to individual artists, organizations and arts corridors throughout Chicago — particularly in communities of need. This new investment increases the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Cultural Grants Program budget by 59% from $1.7 million to $2.7 million.

“These grants celebrate our vibrant cultural community and continue our work to further improve access to the arts in every neighborhood throughout Chicago,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “Mayor Lightfoot’s increased cultural grants funding will ensure that more local arts and community organizations have an opportunity to advance their missions, engaging residents and visitors alike.” 


The DCASE Individual Artists Program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Since 1984, the Cultural Grants Program has served as a catalyst to foster a robust, healthy arts community where artists, non-profit arts and culture and creative industries thrive. For more information and to apply, please visit


The Individual Arts Program and the new Esteem Artists Awards are part of the overall commitment of Chicago and DCASE to the City's diverse and vibrant arts and cultural community. Recently, the City and DCASE announced a partnership with the State of Illinois and the broader philanthropic community to provide financial relief to workers and organizations in the creative industries impacted by COVID-19.  The Arts for Illinois Relief Fund is administered by Arts Alliance Illinois in partnership with 3Arts and Arts Work Fund, long-standing and trusted service organizations and grantmakers. Donate or apply at


2020 Esteemed Artist Awards

Deleatrice (Dee) Alexander – Music

Carlos Barahona – Music

Katherine Davis – Music

Steve Dawson – Music

Mabel Kwan – Music

Michael Reed – Music

Larry Taylor – Music

Jason Howard – Performing Arts (Theatre/Dance)

Sandra Jackson-Opoku – Literary Arts

Ruth Leitman – Film & Media Arts

Fawzia Mirza – Film & Media Arts

Leticia Pardo Rojo – Visual Arts/Design

Sadie Woods – Visual Arts/Design


View the list of 2020 Individual Artists Program Project Grant Recipients online here


2020 Year of Chicago Music

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) have designated 2020 as the Year of Chicago Music. This citywide, year-long focus on music is one of the first of its kind in the U.S. The City of Chicago and its partners working with the local music industry will launch a marketing campaign for Chicago music; provide additional financial grants for musicians and music projects; encourage dialog around inclusion and equity; and call on civic, philanthropic, arts and business leaders to support the music industry. Recognizing that in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the music industry has moved to #dostuffathome, DCASE is partnering with Do312 to highlight local music venues and musicians who are now sharing "Music in the Key of Chicago" on virtual platforms. Start exploring music in the key of Chicago at yearofchicagomusic.organd, and join the conversation on social media using #YearofChicagoMusic and #ChicagoMusic.