Mayor Lightfoot and DCASE Announce $26M In New Arts and Culture Investments In 2022 and a Creative Workers Relief Fund

September 30, 2021

New program with Mayor’s previous support and future commitments make Chicago one of the top major U.S. cities in government support for artist relief

DCASE Communications


CHICAGO—Today, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) announced a new $2.3 million relief fund for Chicago’s artists and creative workers who have suffered lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Chicago Creative Worker Assistance Program” will distribute hundreds of financial assistance grants ranging from $2,000 – $5,000 by the end of this year and plans to open additional rounds of funding in 2022.

This year, the City provided $100 million in funds to support the arts landscape, including “Arts77,” a recovery plan that leverages over $60 million in initial funding to support local artists and creative industries. Additionally, as part of the 2022 budget, the City has proposed $26 million in new arts and culture investments — all told making Chicago one of the top major U.S. cities in government support for arts recovery and artist relief.

“The pandemic took a particularly devastating toll on our arts and culture community as shows were canceled, music venues were closed, and artists faced financial insecurity,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Revitalizing our arts and culture scene is essential to our ability to recover from this pandemic on both an economic and a social level. I am proud to offer continued support and relief to the artists and creators who bring us beauty, culture, and experiences that make us human.”

“Chicago’s arts landscape has been devastated by the pandemic, but I’m excited to see our talented artists and venues come back to life and energize Chicago,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “In 2022, with additional funds — including a transformational increase in our Cultural Grants budget from $2.7 million to $20.7 million — and our operating budget being largely restored to pre-pandemic levels, I’m thrilled that DCASE is now poised to serve the needs of Chicago’s vital arts community next year and well into the future.”

The Chicago Creative Worker Assistance Program will provide relief grants to artists and creative workers, including arts administrators, teaching artists, artisans, curators, independent cultural producers, and technicians who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these creatives are gig workers whose pandemic unemployment insurance benefits have already expired. The program will launch in mid-October with an application deadline in November; and grantees will receive funds quickly, before the end of 2021. DCASE will host two virtual information sessions on October 26 at 3pm and October 27 at 10am. Register to learn more at

Previously announced in the Mayor’s 2022 Budget Recommendations, the City will invest $26 million to support our arts and culture community:

  • $10 million to provide targeted relief focusing on artists and organizations not able to access other forms of federal economic support, such as individual artists, local museums and other art and educational organizations.
  • $10 million for a dedicated revenue stream from the City’s corporate budget to guarantee a baseline of funding for Cultural Grants, which will no longer be subject to the vagaries of the hotel tax.
  • $6 million in “Together We Heal Place-Making Grants,” which will support projects that utilize community engagement to produce cultural projects including community-led public art installations, historical walking tours, neighborhood and educational websites, pop up galleries and other cultural activations.

“This budget proposal is a critical first step in the City of Chicago’s increased commitment to investing in the incredible arts and cultural organizations and artists found in all 77 neighborhoods,” said Claire Rice, Executive Director at Arts Alliance Illinois and a member of the DCASE Cultural Advisory Council. “We thank the mayor for recognizing the civic, social, and economic impact of our $3.2 billion industry, representing over 85,000 jobs, as we emerge from the pandemic.”

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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 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