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Published on June 21, 2024
Cook County Awards $790,000 in Relief Grants to Suburban Arts Organizations Amidst Post-Pandemic Recovery EffortsSource: Google Street View

In a move bringing a much-needed financial cushion to the arts, Cook County is doling out $790,000 in grants to a hundred suburban nonprofit arts and culture organizations, the Cook County Government announced today. The cash infusion is part of a broader $5 million pilot initiative named Cook County Arts, bankrolled by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with the express purpose of pumping life back into a sector still staggering from the pandemic's blow.

According to the announcement, in order to snag a piece of the relief pie, these organizations needed to check a few boxes, like holding a 501(c)(3) IRS ticket and being on good terms with the Illinois Secretary of State. They also had to prove a commitment to the public art scene pre-pandemics, with fiscal feet planted firmly before March 12, 2020, and expenses for 2019 over $20,000. These grants come in two sizes: $5K for yearly expenses between $20K and $100K, and $10K for those splashing out more than that.

Culture and community, it’s often said, go hand in hand. Cook County’s support for these mainstays is a testament to that belief. "They are essential community assets that foster human connection, joyful exchange and innovative thinking," backed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in a statement the county released. With over 30 municipalities reaping the benefits, a range of disciplines from theaters to historic preservations are seeing some love.

Bravo to the suburban arts realm as the relief funding hits the stages and studios. Big Noise Theatre’s Board President, Martha Shurford, told the county that the bucks would be churned into material and kit purchases to keep their shows afloat. "[This funding moves] us closer toward our goal of being able to overhaul our microphone and sound system to continue providing top level entertainment for the Des Plaines community and spread the love of live theater!" she enthused.

Another gem in the loop is the Trickster Art Gallery located in Schaumburg, setting its sight on keeping the doors open to all. Highlighting the gallery's vital role in uplifting Native American cultures and fostering an inclusive dialogue, Executive Director Gina Roxas revealed in a statement to Cook County, "This funding will help us continue to offer our youth and family camps without financial barriers to our families." With workshops and exhibitions, the gallery isn't just showcasing art; it's keeping traditions alive.

This county isn’t done yet; an additional $2.3 million is planned for a placemaking spree aimed at invigorating suburban spaces with art and culture. It’s a concerted effort by Cook County to patch up an industry that's been on its knees – national stats don't lie, with a steep plunge in both employment and economic contributions within arts markets since 2019, according to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cook County’s partnership with Arts Alliance Illinois has been a linchpin in steering the grants program, offering guidance and workshops to keep applicants in the loop. "We are thrilled to partner with Cook County to provide this needed support to suburban Cook nonprofit cultural organizations,” expressed Arts Alliance Illinois Executive Director Claire Rice. The logistical reins, however, were handled by Allies for Community Business as the official grant administrator.

The full pot of gold, including each grantee's name, waits at the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development’s website, and you can dive deeper at for the artsy specifics. For everybody’s (and especially the artists') sake, let’s hope this is just the overture to a full-on symphony of recovery efforts. If anything, for now, it's a standing ovation from the beneficiaries and a curtain call for Cook County's commitment to its creative communities.