February 14, 2019; Playbill
The Rick Bayless Family Foundation has made its first three Stepping Stone Grants of $150,000 each to nonprofit Chicago-based theaters with issues. The money is intended to help the theaters surmount financial barriers to their growth and stability, freeing them up to reach even greater artistic heights.
This is the second round of grants made by the foundation, which was founded only last year, but it is the first focused on overcoming a clear barrier to success. The first trio of grantees are the Albany Park Theatre Project, Porchlight Music Theatre, and Steep Theatre.
Bayless, a celebrity chef with a show on PBS, is a major fan of Chicago’s rich and varied theater scene. He says,
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There were so many barriers that we saw for some of the really great small theatre companies here, and we were drawn to companies that wanted to invest in the artists and the staff members who work for them, because that ultimately is what creates sustainability. We’re helping these smaller theatres get over their financial barriers by investing in them with a substantial amount of money— $50,000 a year for the next three years.
We selected a diverse group of theatres, each of which were facing one big barrier that they needed to get over. Because they had the clearest barriers, we felt that our financial commitment could really take them to the next level over the next three years. In many cases, the grants are going to help them reach a broader audience, and to be able to really showcase their craft in a way that we feel like they deserve.
This kind of cheery embrace of the realities faced by small arts nonprofits is a breath of fresh air from philanthropy, but then Bayless appears to know the scene and the score.—Ruth McCambridge