Chicago artists have been able to get access to necessary funds to sustain their work, thanks to support from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (DCASE).

Applications are now open through Jan.16 for the 2024 Individual Artists Program (IAP), a grant offering up to $6,000 to support artists across all artistic disciplines, including film, literary arts, music, performing arts, visual arts, design and more.  

A testament to the Individual Artists Program is multidisciplinary artist and surveyor of artistic critique and historic moments, Candace Hunter. A South Side native, Hunter is known for her work amplifying women, water rights and other socio-political critique through her art.

Last year, Hunter received the full $6,000 IAP grant. She said that public programs dedicated to strengthening the arts ecosystem are essential. 

“To have entities that see the worth of an artist, see the worth of a project and say, ‘we want to help you enable that dream,’ is absolutely everything,” Hunter told The TRiiBE.

Her latest work is an immersive, Afrofuturistic installation based on the writings of celebrated science-fiction writer, Octavia Butler. Hunter’s largest installation to date, “The Alien-Nations and Sovereign States of Octavia E. Butler,” expands on her previous engagements with Butler’s work and unites a myriad of artforms, including collage and sculptural work.

Hand-painted doors from Candace Hunter's art exhibit at Hyde Park Art Center. Hunter recipient of DCASE's Individual Artists Program.
Photo courtesy of Candace Hunter

Hunter’s installation, located at the Hyde Park Art Center until March 3, is inspired by two books by Butler, “The Parable of the Sower” and Xenogenesis Series

“I’ve been in love with her work for a very long time. This is the first time I really got to investigate what her worlds would look like on a large scale,” Hunter said. 

An integral piece of the installation is a video funded by DCASE’s Individual Artists Program, titled “Lilith’s Breath.” Directed by local filmmaker Stephanie Graham, the video will be played in a video room at the end of the gallery.

By funding artists, DCASE’s Cultural Grants Program strives “to enrich Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy.” The program consists of numerous avenues for local artists to gain support, including four annual grants: the CityArts Program, which focuses on arts nonprofits; the Neighborhood Access Program, which expands support to social service organization; the Chicago Presents Program, which helps support neighborhood festivals and events; and the Individual Artists Program, which directly supports individual artists like Candace Hunter.

In 2023, DCASE gave $23.5 million to organizations and individual artists. 

“We’re really proud and pleased with the progress that we’ve been able to make in the last couple of years, in terms of the amount of resources that we’re giving out and our ability to get those resources to everybody,” said Erin Harkey, the Commissioner of DCASE. 

More importantly, when it comes to certain grants like the annual Neighborhood Access Program, 89% of the grantees were located on the South and West sides of the city. Also, 60% of the Individual Artists Program grantees are people of color, according to Harkey.  

“We serve artists and arts organizations in all wards of the city. We also support social service and community based nonprofits that have arts missions as part of their broader societal and community goals and objectives,” Harkey told The TRiiBE.

The program is open to artists of all disciplines. You must be over the age of 18, as well as a resident of Chicago, to qualify. Participants cannot be enrolled full-time in any undergraduate or university studies. 

DCASE is accepting applicants for the Individual Artists Program until Jan. 16. To apply for the grant, or for more information, go to:

is a culture correspondent with The TRiiBE.