PORTAGE PARK — The Filament Theatre Ensemble and the National Veterans Art Museum, which share a building in the Six Corners Shopping District, now share something else — a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.
Both nonprofit organizations, located at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., will share $3 million during the next four years with 29 other small arts groups from across the city as part of the Chicago Community Trust's 2015 Smart Growth program, designed to strengthen organizations with an operating budget of less than $1 million.
Lionel Rabb, the president of the National Veterans Art Museum, said the museum's selection was a huge vote of confidence from the trust, which awards more than $100 million each year to nonprofit arts groups in Chicago.
"This is great timing," Rabb said, adding the museum plans to work with other groups selected for the Smart Growth grant program. "A strategic plan was on our to-do list for this year."
Jackie Intres, the outreach manager for the Filament Theatre Ensemble, said members of the acting troupe were "wildly pleased" that it was selected.
"It's very cool to be part of the trust," Intres said.
The organizations will work with the trust and the Arts and Business Council of Chicago to assess how they can improve their operations and develop a solid foundation to grow into neighborhood institutions.
After a year of assessment, the groups will get between $15,000 and $50,000 per year for the next three years for operational expenses, officials with the trust said.
The grants are designed to put the arts organizations on solid footing to ensure they "can cope with challenges like the loss of a founder, changing demographics or a tough economy," said Suzanne Connor, senior program officer for arts and culture at the trust, and one of the designers of the grants process.
The formerly itinerant Filament Theatre Ensemble moved to Portage Park in 2013 and transformed a former furniture warehouse into a performance venue.
The ensemble's current production of James and the Giant Peach runs through March 15.
The group hopes the theater will become a community hub in the Six Corners Shopping District, a desire shared by Ald. John Arena (45th), who has been working to turn the long-struggling area around Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Boulevard into an arts and entertainment district.
The National Veterans Art Museum moved to Portage Park in 2012 from the South Side. It features all types of art from veterans of all of America's wars, and hosts a variety of events designed to help veterans cope with the trauma of war through art.
The museum's current exhibit is "100 Faces of War Experience: Portraits and Words of Americans Who Served in Iraq and Afghanistan," by Matt Mitchell.
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