New “IncentOvate” grants help Chicago’s cultural institutions create new arts experiences for the public

November 7, 2014

Competitive Grants Worth a Half of a Million Dollars Awarded to Five Cultural Projects in Chicago

Christine Carrino    312.744.0573,

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is pleased to announce the inaugural group of IncentOvate Program grant recipients. Chicago Children’s Choir, the Chicago History Museum, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Old Town School of Folk Music will receive competitive grants totaling $500,000 to support projects that further the goals of the Chicago Cultural Plan and Cultural Tourism Strategy.

“This first group of IncentOvate Program grantees shows the creativity and ingenuity of our city’s great cultural institutions and neighborhood arts organizations,” said DCASE Commissioner Michelle T. Boone. “Each of these projects contributes to the cultural landscape and shows why Chicago draws people from all over the world to experience its arts.”

The IncentOvate Program is part of the Cultural Grants Program of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which provides more than $1.7 million annually in direct funding to artists, creative professionals and arts and cultural organizations across Chicago – including the CityArts Program, which supports small to mid-sized nonprofits, and the Individual Artists Program. IncentOvate stimulates cultural innovation and supports the city’s larger cultural institutions to foster the creation of new large-scale public arts experiences. This new competitive grants program is made possible by Chicago Cultural Plan implementation funds in an effort to advance goals articulated in both the Chicago Cultural Plan and the Chicago Tourism Strategy. Twenty-eight applications were judged on criteria that included 1) the innovation of a new program or product; 2) the presence of or collaboration with neighborhood cultural programs or experiences and 3) the opportunity for audience growth through arts education for all ages, increased access to the arts, the integration of culture into daily life and/or enhanced collaboration across public spaces.

The five projects funded by this year’s IncentOvate Program are:

  • Chicago Children’s Choir (CCC) will use grant funds towards the development of a modern retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set in Chicago, created in collaboration with the Q Brothers, known for hip-hop adaptations of Shakespeare. The planning phase of the project will include workshops for CCC singers, music development sessions and video documentation of the creative process. The final work, a contemporary fusion of hip-hop and choral singing, will be presented as an integral component of CCC’s 60th anniversary celebration in 2016.
  • The Chicago History Museum is developing a new exhibition, Chicago Authored, which will explore the history of writing in and about the city. The exhibition will feature many current and past authors who have given shape to our understanding of Chicago over time. IncentOvate will support the development of interactive components in the gallery, an audio tour, and various public programs, including city tours and Chicago-centered book clubs and author talks. The exhibition, which will open next year, is the result of a bold crowd-sourcing experiment that received hundreds of suggestions from the public before this theme was chosen by popular vote.
  • Through its Lyric Unlimited program, the Lyric Opera of Chicago is launching the new Chicago Voices project, which will create new music theater pieces generated by a citywide invitation to Chicagoans to share their community stories. A number of these stories will be developed into simple scripts set to music and performed in semi-staged readings in neighborhood venues. The filmed versions of these performances will be posted online for a community vote, and three stories will receive financial, artistic and technical support with input from the community participants to fully realize and stage their productions at a major city venue.
  • The National Museum of Mexican Art plans to expand is well-known Day of the Dead celebration held each fall based on the historical and spiritual tradition observed in Mexico. In remembrance of loved ones no longer with us, the museum will place Ofrendas in various locations throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods as well as a “Super Ofrenda” in downtown Chicago. Accompanied by activities for families including street performers from Mexico, the downtown event will center on a projection on a Loop building of photos contributed by Chicagoans of lost loved ones they wish to remember and celebrate. Additionally, the museum will support the annual Day of the Dead Catrina cultural costume parade through Pilsen – a community tradition.
  • The Old Town School of Folk Music will elevate public awareness of Chicago’s master traditional musicians – “living cultural treasures” – in a campaign called Iron Heart Chicago. In a unique partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the Iron Heart musical “heroes” will play live events at stations on all six L lines, as well as neighborhood parks and public libraries. Digital signage on CTA platforms, taxicabs and office buildings will give 30-second compelling stories of these music artists and direct the public to a mobile app that further gives information on geo-targeted public performances, sample videos and even lessons on local music history.

Applications for the Individual Artist Program are now open and are due in December, and the CityArts Program applications open on November 14 and are due in January. For details, visit


Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors. For more information, visit


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