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Telling Your Story: Grant Writing Workshop for Artists

Join us in a workshop with Lauren Woods for a partnership with ILA’s flagship program, G-to-G (Getting to Our Goals) Coaching Series.



ILA’s flagship program, G-to-G (Getting to Our Goals), is an ongoing effort to advance our mission of educating, celebrating, and elevating Black artists across Chicago. These monthly activations serve as an opportunity for working creatives to connect with subject matter experts in their area of interest. G-to-G coaching sessions are presented in a lecture/interactive format, with ample opportunity for group discussions among teaching artists and attendees.


Telling Your Story: Grant Writing for Artists will be led by Lauren Woods of Chicago Community Trust. This workshop, specially catered for Black artists, and creative entrepreneurs will focus on effective strategies for grant writing methods. Participants will learn how to meaningfully communicate their arts practices, missions, values and artist statement as it relates to securing funding, and additional purposes relevant to artists and creative entrepreneurs.


ILA, founded by Rachel Gadson, believes in the power of Black artists and exists to inspire and promote their creative works. Through educational experiences, empowering events, and intentional programming, we are creating a generational web of growth and expansion within the arts.


Lauren M. Woods is a program manager for the Building Collective Power strategy at The Chicago Community Trust. In this role, she is responsible for leading grant making initiatives that support local journalism, media, and civic storytelling in the Chicago region. Prior to joining the Trust, Lauren managed the district-wide Service-Learning Initiative at Chicago Public Schools and directed the Midwest educational partnership strategy for an international nonprofit, WE.

As an artist and fourth generation Chicagoan, Lauren believes in the transformational power of narrative and storytelling to activate community and spark systems change.



Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.