Pigment International
3 min readFeb 12, 2024

Read this week’s Pigment Newsletter in its entirety here.

The Illinois Arts Council (IAC) has completed its most comprehensive and far reaching assessment and changes to its grant making and funding process in recent memory. Last week the agency announced those changes, saying they ‘will enhance equal access to public funding across the state’.

In an exclusive conversation with Pigment International, Executive Director Joshua Davis-Ruperto and Board Chair Nora Daley discussed the changes, the first of their kind since prior to Davis-Ruperto’s tenure, which began in 2008. “We’re proud of the self-reflection and conversations the agency undertook to get to this place,” said Daley.

The overall assessment of the agency’s granting programs, policies, and procedures began in 2023, resulting in what the pair term bold new changes. The end result for the grantees of the over 60 year old state agency, will be increased funding, much dedicated to operating support; a streamlined grant making process; increased capacity and networking; but a continued focus on equity.

The data driven analysis and conversations throughout the state will inform the next chapter of the IAC. The final report and recommendations of the Illinois Equitable Grant Making Assessment Initiative (EGAIN)can be found here. Increased operating support will be especially impactful for small agencies, and as Davis-Ruperto offers, “it doesn’t matter what kind of programs you run if you can’t keep the lights on”.

The IAC’s statewide listening tour involved hosting 34 town hall meetings in over 20 counties attended by over 150 organizations as well as individual artists, legislators, and local government officials.

“It was my first opportunity to travel the state and be in conversation with these agencies and I found it both interesting and inciteful,’ said Daley. “What we did see was that no matter their geographic location — urban or rural — there were so many more similarities than differences among these agencies, and my hope is the changes will open up increased opportunities.”

Some highlights of the changes include:

· Streamlined application process.

· In FY25, the General Operating Support grant will become a three-year grant cycle.

· A cash match will no longer be required for applicants to ease the burden on small and emerging organizations.

· The IAC funding formula will be updated ensuring an equitable regional distribution of funds, as well as priority given to historically under-resourced communities.

· The IAC divided the state into six distinct regions allowing Program Directors to oversee entire communities as opposed to artistic disciplines.

  • IAC began partnering with other state and federal agencies to provide access to additional granting opportunities and resources for the creative sector. The Illinois Creative Collaborative will continue to expand its work with state and federal agencies in the years ahead.

Additionally, this collaboration with other state agencies means that IAC grantees will have access to this network of affiliated agencies like the Illinois Film Office and Capital Development Board’s Art-in-Architectureprogram. “While the IAC’ budget is $15M the state’s budgets for the arts is $200M, and we wanted our grantees to connect to these opportunities,” said Daley.

The new guidelines and application process will be announced shortly, and a series of webinars are planned to provide additional details. Davis-Ruperto says that for the first time the agency has created a communications department and they will be instrumental in getting the word out about all that the agency is doing. The strategic direction behind the creation of the department is to reach artists, organizations, and community stakeholders, expanding virtual and statewide in-person grant writing workshops and informational sessions.

Daley concludes, “As a sector we must realize that culture defines who we are as a people, and we need to celebrate that.”

You can visit the agency’s website to learn more here.

Read the Illinois Equitable Grant Making Assessment Initiative Recommendations Report here.

Read this week’s Pigment Newsletter in its entirety here.



Pigment International

PIGMENT-Intl ® is a multi-media arts collective redefining global arts, culture, and innovation.