Theory of Change

The Status Quo

Women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists are not equitably represented or supported as valued members of the nation’s professional creative workforce. This lack of diversity and depth in the perspectives and genres that are reflected in our sector hinders our collective ability to alter the course of oppressive dominant narratives and structures, including systems based on patriarchy, white supremacy, and ableism.

3Arts’s Response: Seeking to Shift the Status Quo

3Arts advocates for Chicago’s women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists through career-spanning programs designed to help them build momentum in their careers, including unrestricted cash awards, project funding, residency fellowships, professional development workshops, and promotion. Through this mission, 3Arts aims to model integrity and authenticity in its work and community. It strives to advance a fluid, open, and responsive approach and attitude to support artists. Those artists support the wellbeing of the city in which they live through their work.

  • 3Arts aims to be a trusted ally and responsive to the evolving conditions of artists
  • 3Arts adopts a human-centered approach to grantmaking, acknowledging each artist’s unique circumstances and practice
  • 3Arts regularly supports artists who are on the frontlines of shifting culture at every stage of their careers
  • Once artists receive awards from 3Arts, they become part of a larger network of practitioners with opportunities for additional support throughout their careers
  • 3Arts centers artists as co-leaders

Outcomes of this Response

3Arts helps artists gain traction in their careers through consistent programs that take place over time. By offering multi-year support, 3Arts seeks to help raise the profiles of Chicago artists (locally and beyond). This helps artists obtain opportunities and resources that advance their professional practices and personal security.

  • 3Arts artists grow in their artistic practices by:

Making and exhibiting/presenting new work
Expanding their audiences
Demonstrating artistic growth and/or risk-taking within their practices

  • 3Arts artists strengthen their careers by:

Establishing connections to new donors and patrons
Advocating for themselves and their work
Leveraging 3Arts’ resources to receive other financial support
Gaining knowledge about marketing, fundraising, audience building, and financial planning

  • 3Arts artists build community with Chicago peers by:

Connecting with artists in the 3Arts network
Collaborating with and hiring other artists
Advocating for other artists
Becoming more knowledgeable about artists working in disciplines different from their own

  • 3Arts artists are part of an ongoing and multifaceted support network that:

Recognizes and holds them in high esteem
Invites them to be partners and leaders in decision-making
Ensures they are paid fair and equitable wages
Encourages them to advocate for and hold 3Arts accountable

  • 3Arts artists are recognized for their work in Chicago and beyond

Signposts that Show that 3Arts is Shifting Culture in the Right Direction

  • 3Arts honors the experiences and needs of women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists. It holds them at the center of its work and continually evolves its support for these communities. 3Arts centers these communities in internal policies, procedures, staff and board development, and in external programs and services.
  • 3Arts is a learning organization. It checks for bias and oppressive systems on an ongoing basis. It centers equity and justice in its grantmaking and program practices.
  • 3Arts advocates for artists by communicating its learnings and modeling its support. This encourages the arts and culture communities in 3Arts' local and national networks to become more fluid and responsive--especially with regard to support for individual artists.

Impact of These Outcomes

With increased recognition of the full spectrum of artistic voices and practices, the arts and culture field in our region moves closer to centering women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists.

  • Residents across Chicago participate in artist projects supported by 3Arts
  • Residents and organizations engage artists as leaders in decision-making and pay them fair and equitable wages
  • More organizations in Chicago and nationally support and advocate for equity in arts and culture.

    This support and advocacy includes:

– supporting women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists through unrestricted cash awards and other opportunities

– presenting/exhibiting work by women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists

– including women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists in decision-making


2019 3Arts Theory of Change conducted in collaboration with Metris Arts Consulting