Lending Expertise.
Providing Support.
Facilitating Partnerships.


We connect Chicago’s arts and business communities to ensure a thriving and equitable creative economy; championing the city’s creative workers and enterprises through programs, services, and partnerships that lead to increased economic strength and community vitality.


We see creativity is a renewable resource with limitless economic and social potential for community development and global connectedness.


  • Relationships Matter
  • Diversity Builds Capacity
  • Candor is Essential


In 1985, 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.

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 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®.

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 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.

In 2019, 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.

In 2020, COVID-19 causes world-wide disruption. 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 are laid off and 1,500 more furloughed. Still, A&BC remains committed to lending expertise, providing support, and facilitating partnerships in this uncertain time. In 2020, A&BC provides learning opportunities for over 150 arts administrators; facilitated board governance & leadership training to over 60 individuals; and performed over 1,300 hours of pro bono consulting valued at nearly $200,000 – provided a corps of over 200 dedicated volunteers. In our 35-year history, A&BC has seen three economic downturns. Our track record and commitment to our communities coming out of the 2008 financial collapse remains the same. Just as we did then—we intend to emerge as a strong community platform in the coming months. In 2021 we will streamline operations; adapt our programming; and plan for a viable re-emergence that rapidly meets the needs of the creative sector in our community.