Lending Expertise.
Providing Support.
Facilitating Partnerships.


To develop leadership, the business of arts, and the art of business in Chicago.


To create a vibrant Chicago arts community and an arts-engaged business community where each mutually supports the other.


  • Relationships Matter
  • Diversity Builds Capacity
  • Candor is Essential


Arts & Business Council of Chicago was established in 1985 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.

In 1995, 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.

In 1996, 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.

In 1999, 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.

In 2001, 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.

In 2005, 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.

In 2006, for Chicago Community Trust’s SMARTGrowth 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®.

In 2010, 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.

In 2015, A&BC celebrates its 30th year of serving the Chicago-area arts community with passion, innovation and determination.

In 2017, 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.

In 2018, A&BC states its commitment to racial equity by conducting a thorough organizational audit in partnership with Justice Informed. Justice Informed will work with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago staff and Board members to ensure all members are trained in anti-racism and cultural sensitivity, use aggregated data to devise a framework for programmatic shifts to ensure external engagement practices are inclusive, devise a Racial Equity Statement, and expand their network of partners.

In April 2018, A&BC hired Justice Informed as a consultant to further A&BC’s opportunities and capacity for racial equity. Through this work, A&BC built and deployed strategies 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 equity training series, an in-depth audit of A&BC policies and practices, and an implementation phase, board and staff has been working to develop and use tools to further racial equity in the organization and the city.

In 2019, A&BC spent a significant part of the year developing policies and strategies to implement The 77 Communities Initiative (77CI), so named because Chicago has 77 city-designated communities. Annexes serve as the main delivery method for the 77CI, and are comprised of Field Offices (drop-in office hours), Think & Do Tanks (on demand consulting provided by pro bono volunteers), and Learning Labs (skill building workshops). Annexes create partnerships among government like the Park District, artists, local and downtown business, and social service, community organizing and/or justice organizations in the community.

In 2019, A&BC had reached just 36 of our 77 Communities, in the prior 5 years. As of 12/31/19, A&BC had reached 59 (+22). Definition of “reach”: Level 1 means we have an art maker contact in the community. Level 2 means we held an event in the community. Level 3 means we engaged in a capacity building activity with a community art maker (i.e. “Contact to Client” conversion). Of the 22 new communities reached in 2019, 11 were Level 1 engagements, 5 were Level 2, and 6 were Level 3. Five of the 11 Level 1 engagements will develop to Level 2 in 2020 by being designated Annex locations.