Arts & Business Council of Chicago was established as Business Volunteers for the Arts®. Since its founding, Arts & Business Council of Chicago has trained and placed thousands of business volunteers on management consulting projects for nonprofit arts groups, providing over 100,000 hours of pro-bono consulting valued at over 14 million dollars.


Business Volunteers for the Arts® changes its name to the Arts & Business Council of Chicago (A&BC) to more accurately reflect the broadened scope of its mission.


A&BC pioneers the Arts Marketing Program, which includes an Advanced Training and Granting Program for arts marketing professionals and produces several seminal research studies. The program is adopted nationally in 1998 as the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) of the Arts & Business Council Inc., and is replicated in 14 cities throughout the U.S.


A&BC launches On BOARD®, an annual training and matching program for business professionals interested in serving on the boards of nonprofit arts groups. Since that time, more than 350 business professionals have been trained and matched on boards of all sizes and disciplines.


A&BC develops an organizational assessment tool, smARTscope®, to analyze and measure the management capacity of arts organizations. smARTscope®, has evolved into an effective online planning tool, helping arts organizations avoid pitfalls and strategically use their limited resources.


The A&BC national affiliate, the Arts & Business Council, Inc., merges with Americans for the Arts to more effectively increase private-sector support for the arts in America.


For Chicago Community Trust’s SMART Growth grant program, A&BC oversees full-scale management assessments of 41 arts organizations utilizing smARTscope®, A&BC’s online assessment tool. Participating organizations developed strategic plans based on the findings and implements plans accordingly. Today 120 Trust grantees have used smARTscope®.


A&BC celebrates its 25th year of serving Chicago’s arts and business sectors. During that quarter-century, A&BC trained and placed more than 1,250 business volunteers on management consulting projects for hundreds of nonprofit arts groups. And, during that time, more than 200 business professionals trained and matched with dozens of arts boards representing organizations of all sizes and artistic disciplines.


A&BC celebrates its 30th year of serving the Chicago-area arts community with passion, innovation and determination.


A&BC launches its annual Luncheon dedicated to the convergence of Arts, Business and Community – The “ABC’s” of building strong, active neighborhoods throughout Chicago.


A&BC hires Justice Informed as a consultant to further A&BC’s opportunities and capacity for racial equity. Through this work, A&BC adopts strategies recommended by Justice Informed to support an environment that is an equitable space for all members of board and staff, and for the people in our city. Through a rigorous assessment process, an anti-racism training series, and an in-depth audit of A&BC policies and practices, board and staff begins working to develop and use tools to further racial equity in the organization and expand their network of partners through inclusive engagement practices.


A&BC launches its 77 Communities Initiative (77CI). Through 77CI, the organization gives principal consideration to minorities along with communities and organizations that are perpetually marginalized in the arts & culture landscape due to historic, cultural, political, and socio-economic inequities; listen to and build relationship among volunteers, community stakeholders, and artist-entrepreneurs, in order to co-create solutions and opportunities to advance our city’s creative aspirations and potential.

2020 – 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on America’s arts sector. Even as arts organizations return to in-person programming and employment conditions improve for artists and creative workers, the arts are recovering slower than other industries.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey reports that “arts, entertainment, and recreation” businesses are among the most likely to take longer than 6 months to recover from the pandemic. It’s estimated that creative economies across the United States see negative economic impact of over $14.1 billion. Here at home in Illinois, 1,200+ arts administrators were laid off and 1,500+ more furloughed.

As our sector and our society move beyond Rescue and Relief, it’s important to remember that A&BC has offered Recovery & Rebuilding assistance during every economic disruption and national disaster since 1985. In fact, we do this in stable times as well. It’s part of our “continuum of care” philosophy of sequenced capacity building. It helps our Arts Partners weather those disruptions and to be prepared when they hit.

A&BC provides direct consulting, educational, and networking programs to leaders and staff of cultural and creative businesses so that they build their capacity and infrastructure to be sustainable organizations resulting ultimately in a strong, thriving arts community.


2020 kicked off the Year of Chicago Music and also marked the nonprofit Arts & Business Council of Chicago’s 35th year supporting creative enterprises. To celebrate, A&BC asked the public to vote on great moments in Chicago music history and to help us in our work supporting the talented creatives who will keep Chicago a vibrant city for the next 35 years. 35 great moments in Chicago music history were announced in the Chicago Reader and on this site on July 23, 2020.

In 2020, A&BC: Launched a total of 11 Business Volunteers for the Arts® (BVA) Projects equaling 1,300 hours valued at nearly $200,000 of pro bono consulting; Provided learning opportunities for over 150 arts administrators; and Facilitated board governance & leadership training to over 60 individuals.


A&BC supported the development of: 10 Arts Partner organizations’ capacity through a Business Volunteers for the Arts® (BVA) Project where we matched 47 volunteers to serve on a BVA Team, plus fulfilling 8 BVA On Demand requests, all equaling 1,928 hours valued at $289,137 of pro bono consulting; and 350 arts staff & board members’ competency and skills to navigate these chaotic times by their attendance at one of our 6 On BOARD® sessions, 5 Learning Labs or 10 Round Tables for Senior Leaders.


A&BC supported the development of: 16 Arts Partner organizations’ capacity through a Business Volunteers for the Arts® (BVA) where we matched 59 volunteers to serve on one of 12 BVA Project Teams, or fulfilling 5 BVA On-Demand requests, all equaling 2,294 hours valued at $344,100 of pro bono consulting; and 125+ arts staff & board members’ competency and skills by their attendance at one of our 6 On BOARD® sessions, 4 Learning Labs, or 4 Annex activities. Also in 2022, A&BC approved a 2-year Strategic Plan, with two primary objectives:


Grow our capacity to inspire accountability, persistence, integrity, and respect among our colleagues in the creative economy.


Empower cultural workers and enterprises through programming that helps grow capacity to fulfill their visions.