Intuit Museum Awarded ‘Transformative’ $5 Million Grant to Support Outsider Art

The city of Chicago awarded a $5 million community development grant to Intuit, a small Chicago museum, as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Plan. The plan uses federal and local funds to support organizations and neighborhoods hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intuit, the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, has been on Milwaukee Avenue near Chicago and Ogden avenues since 1999. The museum showcases artwork by self-taught and often marginalized artists who didn’t follow a traditional path to art-making.

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The $5 million grant stands to be a game-changer for the 32-year-old nonprofit.

“This is exactly transformative,” said Debra Kerr, the museum’s president and CEO. “We’re a small institution, and this is going to allow us to take what I consider a Chicago gem and transform it into a real cultural jewel of the city.”

The latest exhibition presents drawings by Tarik Echols, a resident at Palatine’s Little City, a community of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that Intuit is here,” Kerr said. “We’re one of the few museums in the world that focus specifically on this genre of art – art made by people outside the mainstream art world.”

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The city was looking for projects that were ready-to-go from groups that were able to provide a 25% match. Candidates didn’t have to be nonprofits or cultural organizations.

Intuit will expand to the second floor of the building, which is currently used for storage. Renderings from the museum’s grant proposal depict new spaces and teaching areas. There are plans to enlarge the permanent exhibit on Henry Darger, the celebrated visionary artist from Chicago, and Intuit will have a new look facing the street.

“One of the challenges here is that our facade is not particularly welcoming,” Kerr said. “It’s not conducive to making this an inviting place, so we’ll be opening up that facade, making it more like what it probably was originally, a glass storefront on the first floor, making it very welcoming with an accessible ramp.”

All of that ties into the larger goal of the grant: developing the community by helping an anchor in the community.

“Here we are a small museum in the West Town neighborhood,” Kerr said. “And this is our opportunity to take this great building that was never intended to be an art museum and transform it into a 21st century museum for the city of Chicago and beyond.”

The Pullman Hotel Group also received a $5 million community development grant to build a new hotel on the Far South Side.

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