Performing Arts Venue Relief Grants Program

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The Performing Arts Venue Relief Fund application is now closed.


The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on the arts and cultural community.

The performing arts in particular are focused on bringing people together for live, shared experiences – activities that are impossible with the necessary restrictions on gatherings in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Performing arts venues are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. They have ongoing facilities expenses, but continue to experience major income losses. They will be some of the last businesses to reopen at full capacity and when they do, they will have to drastically rethink capacity, seating, staging and more.

These businesses and organizations are incredibly important to the fabric of neighborhoods, providing space and support to artists, cultural workers, and performing arts companies. To address the unique circumstances faced by these venues, the City of Chicago, with support from the Walder Foundation and the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund and in partnership with Accion, has established the Performing Arts Venue Relief Program to provide support to this critical part of the arts and culture sector.

The Performing Arts Venue Relief Program will distribute $10,000 grants to up to 120 for-profit and nonprofit performing arts venues to cover lost revenue due to COVID-19. Funds will be allocated through an equity lens that considers the history of disinvestment and the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on the South and West sides of Chicago. The program will prioritize funding organizations located on the South and West sides, in LMI (Low and Moderate Income) community areas, organizations that were not eligible for the City of Chicago’s Together Now program, and organizations that have not received grants through the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, the City of Chicago’s Together Now program, or the 2020 CityArts Large program for organizations with budgets over $2M.

Grants will be distributed via a lottery system. The application deadline is October 23 at 5pm Central Standard Time.

Eligibility Criteria:

To be eligible to apply for a Performing Arts Venue Relief Program grant, organizations must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a primary mission/purpose to produce or present performing arts programming, including theatre, dance, comedy, performance art and/or music, including live mixing by DJs.
  • Have a PPA (Public Place of Amusement) or Music and Dance license in good standing. Please note that PAV (Performing Arts Venue) licenses have been consolidated with PPA licenses, so former PAV license holders are also eligible.
  • Be located in the city of Chicago with a valid street address (P.O. Boxes will not be accepted).
  • Own or lease year-round a venue or club that is demonstrated as a primary component of the organization, at which performing arts performances are the primary amusement/activity, as verified by past programmatic listings and website content documenting featured artists.
  • Be an independent venue that is not owned, run, or exclusively booked by a multinational corporation or publicly-traded company.
  • Must have been incorporated and operating since at least December 2019.
  • Must not be able to open at full capacity as part of Restore Illinois or Reopening Chicago Phase 4.
  • Must pay fair fees to artists in accordance with standard wage and labor laws. *
  • Must have experienced an earned revenue loss of at least 75% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Must not owe more than $2,500 in unpaid fees, services, or other costs to the City of Chicago.

We will only accept one application per organization, even if the organization has multiple venues.

*Artists employed or contracted by venue must be paid at or above minimum wage and/or be paid a percentage of cover fees/ticket sales. Theatre and dance rental houses that do not contract directly with artists or companies are exempt from this requirement.


Funding Restrictions

Grants may not be used for severance pay, workforce bonuses other than hazard pay or overtime, property taxes, legal settlements, or reimbursement to other parties for goods or services previously donated.

They following entities are not eligible to apply:

  • Organizations applying using a fiscal agent.
  • Organizations applying on behalf of an organization/program for which they serve as a fiscal agent or fiscal sponsor.
  • National chain businesses or not-for-profit organizations that have a national affiliation.
  • Religious institutions.
  • Public or governmental agencies.
  • Athletic teams, social organizations, fraternal organizations.
  • Strip clubs or adult entertainment facilities.
  • Individuals.


Grant Details:

  • All grants will be $10,000
  • Grants will be made in a single, one-time payment.
  • Applicants will be screened for eligibility and grantees will be selected from the eligible applicant pool via a lottery system.



  • 10/5: Application opens
  • 10/23: Application closes at 5:00pm CST
  • 11/16: Grant recipients are chosen via lottery and notified of their acceptance.
  • November/December: ACH payments distributed.


What You Need to Apply

  • General information about your venue including its capacity, mission and primary purpose.
  • Number of employees and artists paid by the organization in 2019.
  • For theatre and dance venues: Number of companies that held productions in venue in 2019
  • Narrative information about your venue’s artist pay scales and Diversity & Equity goals and policies.
  • Demographic information about your CEO and artists.
  • Bank statement from December 2019.
  • Copy of PPA (Public Place of Amusement) or Music and Dance license
  • List and overview of programmatic activities in 2019
  • Business Owner/CEO Driver’s License, State ID or CityKey ID
  • Signed W-9


How To Apply

To apply, click here.

Although you may type your responses to application questions directly into the online application, it is a good idea to draft your answers in a separate document or word processing software, then cut, paste, and edit as you complete the application.

We also strongly recommend submitting your application earlier than the stated deadline. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted or reviewed.


Supporting Information:

  • Submit Questions to the Performing Arts Venue Relief Program Team via these links:



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