2nd Chicago Latino Arts & Culture Summit Connects Latino Arts Leaders With Top Foundations

The annual event brought together leaders from the city's top foundations with their counterparts at more than 20 Chicago Latino nonprofit arts organizations.

By: May. 21, 2023
2nd Chicago Latino Arts & Culture Summit Connects Latino Arts Leaders With Top Foundations
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"One-third of Chicago is Latino. Does your funding portfolio reflect that?" That question spurred frank conversation and new paths to solutions at the 2nd Chicago Latino Arts and Culture Summit, held Monday, May 15 at the Omni Hotel on Michigan Avenue.

The annual event brought together leaders from the city's top foundations with their counterparts at more than 20 Chicago Latino nonprofit arts organizations.

The group, more than 50 strong, spent a full day participating in group dialogue, Q&As, breakout sessions, mentoring, and one-on-one introductions. The topic: developing new strategies and solutions to address the funding gap in Latino arts.

Summit Chair Carlos Carlos Hernandez Falcón, Founder and Executive Director, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, set the stage for the day, calling the summit a new vehicle to advocate for strengthening and expanding foundation, corporation and individual funding support to Latino arts and culture organizations.

Carlos Tortolero, President and CEO, National Museum of Mexican Art, shared statistics provided by Dr. Teresa Córdova, Director of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Notably, in 1980, 14% of Chicago's population was Latino. Today, that number is 29.6%.

More than double.

"Why aren't we here? Why aren't Latinos included," Tortolero said. "We're not just in Pilsen. We're not just in Humboldt Park. We're in the suburbs. We're everywhere." (left, from left) Panelists Marcela Muñoz, Aguijón Theater, Mary Santana, The Miracle Center, and Jorge Valdivia, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance.

To start the "What Funders Need to Know" panel, Marcela Muñoz, Executive Director and Co-Artistic Director, Aguijón Theater, spoke about the trope, "Surviving on a shoestring budget."

"I'm sure I'm not the only one here to have written that in a funding application. It's cute. 'We're gonna make it happen, regardless!'" said Muñoz. "But it's not magic. It's not miracles. It's a heck of a lot of work. Historically, and currently, funding is leaving under represented organizations with nothing but shoestrings. It means artists aren't getting paid, or paid enough. If we're all truly committed to diversity and inclusion, and your presence today is a testament to your commitment, I urge you to think about your funding, if it is commensurate?"

Mary Santana, Founder and Executive Director of The Miracle Center, reminded the room about "the importance for us to write and produce our own stories. Because only we know our gente (people). Only we can tell our stories."

Jorge Valdivia, Executive Director, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA), brought it home. "What we'd like funders to know, to really think about - is that if Latinos make up one third of Chicago's population, if our children are now the majority in the Chicago Public School system, and if you believe that the work we're doing is truly meaningful and impactful, then we're asking you to look at your funding portfolio and see if your funding priorities align with we've all seen here this morning." 

Program directors from more than a dozen Chicago foundations met to share ideas on boosting funding for Chicago's Latino arts organizations.

At the funder panel, Michael Angell, Director, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, responded "We've got work to do, but we want to do it."

And he did, announcing new support coming from the Angell Foundation for Chicago's Latino arts and culture groups, including:

  • Hiring a new performing arts program associate in Chicago, with one of their duties specifically Latino affairs. The foundation is seeking someone who is bilingual and from the community to hopefully have in place in fall 2023 for a new line of direct support.
  • $200,000 in additional grant funds for Chicago Latino arts groups - over and above current funding allocations, starting in 2024.
  • The introduction of mentorship grants, awarded to larger groups to mentor smaller ones in areas including fundraising, governance, marketing, and board development.
  • New "mini-grants" for smaller groups with smaller budgets, with a $5,000 maximum award and a simplified application.


Foundation panelists Marcia Festen, Director, Arts Work Fund, Richard Tran, Arts Program Officer, The Field Foundation, and Ellen Placey Wadey, Program Director, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation shared their perspectives, recommendations, their organization's funding priorities, and new emphasis on equitable funding of Latino arts.
This year saw the introduction of rotating "mini-meetings," offering time for new introductions and one-on-one conversations between funders and non-profits.

Constanza Mendoza and Iraida Mercedes Tapias in a mini-meeting with Richard Tran, the Field Foundation of Chicago, and (right) Ellen Placey Wadey talking one-on-one with Vanessa Torres, The Miracle Center. Credit: JR Production

Carlos Tortolero, National Museum of Mexican Art, and Pepe Vargas, Founder and Executive Director, International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, each led mentoring sessions, sharing their years of knowledge with a new generation of Latino arts leaders on how to "supercharge" their development efforts.

Participants also screened a tribute video to the late Myrna Salazar, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, and a video demonstrating the depth and diversity of Chicago's Latino arts community.

In sum, 18 program officers represented more than a dozen Chicago foundations, including Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Arts Work Fund, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Field Foundation of Illinois, Ford Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Polk Bros Foundation, The Seabury Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art and the Walder Foundation.

Participating nonprofits were AfríCaríbe, Aguijón Theater Company, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA), Chicago Mariachi Project, Cuerdas Clásicas, International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, National Louis University, National Museum of Mexican Art, OPEN Center for the Arts, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Tango 21 Dance Theater, Teatro Tariakuri Dance and Theatre Performing Arts, The Miracle Center, The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, UIC Great Cities Institute, Vision Latino Theater Company and Water People Theater.

Photo Credit: JR Production



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