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The Chicago Artists Coalition Announces the MAKER Grant | Coney Family Fund Award

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Chicago Artists Coalition Announces The Coney Family Fund Award for Emerging Black and African-American Artists.

CHICAGO, IL. February 28, 2017 – The Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) announces the launch of the Coney Family Fund Award, a $5,000 unrestricted grant recognizing a Black or African-American artist who demonstrates artistic excellence and a commitment to a sustainable practice and career development.  Part of the organization’s MAKER Grant program, The MAKER Grant | Coney Family Fund Award is made possible through the generosity and vision of CAC member and supporter, Lester N. Coney and his children, Chanel and Javon Coney.  

“Allowing young artists the opportunity to showcase their work while helping establish and build their careers is something that my family and I are thrilled to be a part of,” said Lester N. Coney. “The arts have always been a part of my life as well as my children’s, providing a platform to express ourselves in various ways. The Coney Family Fund Award will help to ensure that young, Black or African-American artists can also continue to express themselves while pursuing their talent and passion for years to come.”

The Coney Family Fund Award will be given annually for the next five years with the potential to subsequently extend, and will provide an important opportunity for emerging artists in the Chicago community. By providing access to unrestricted capital, the award aims to help grantees take an important next step in their practice and grow the careers and visibility of Chicago-based Black and African-American contemporary artists.  

This inaugural award is an exciting expansion of the MAKER Grant program, which CAC began in 2013. The original MAKER Grant, which continues to be funded in partnership by OtherPeoplesPixels and the CAC’s annual fundraiser, “WORK IN PROGRESS,” awards two micro-grants of $3,000 and $1,000 to artists whose work actively engages with social and/or environmental issues. The Coney Family Fund Award brings a third, $5,000 grant to the MAKER Grant program, to recognize exceptional emerging artists who identify as Black or African-American, and to support the advancement of their artistic careers. 

The award will also be stewarded by Coney’s children, his daughter Chanel Coney and his son, Javon Coney. Chanel Coney is the Director of Marketing for Chicago Fundamental Invesment Partners, LLC, and the Board Chair of Congo Square Theater. She also sits on the board of 3Arts and has a personal background in theater performance. Javon Coney currently lives in New York City, where he is an aide to Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Previously Javon worked for an advance team in the West Wing of the White House during the Obama administration. 

Les Coney serves as Executive Vice President in Mesirow Financial’s Office of the Chairman. As a civic leader, Coney has been actively involved in many organizations in support of the arts, the city as well as minority and ethnic issues. Both philanthropically and as an art collector, he has focused on supporting artists of color and improving racial equality and inclusion in the Chicago art community. He is a trustee of Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago and was named a life trustee for the Goodman Theatre. He is a board member of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, the Lookingglass Theatre and serves on the board of governors of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

“Les, Chanel and Javon have displayed an incredible commitment to supporting strong, healthy, diverse and inclusive Chicago arts organizations,” said CAC’s Director of Development Stephanie Lentz. “The Chicago Artists Coalition is honored to partner with the Coney family to further their legacy and these shared goals through an annual grant to emerging artists of color.” 

Applications for the new grant opportunity open online March 1, 2017 and close March 31, 2017. Proposals will be reviewed by a jury of artists including Amanda Williams, Faheem Majeed and Brian Holmes. All MAKER Grantees will be announced at CAC’s annual fundraiser, WORK IN PROGRESS, May 18, 2017 at Venue One.  
For more information, visit  

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About the MAKER Grant 
The MAKER Grant Program is an annual, unrestricted award opportunity for Chicago-based contemporary artists. MAKER Grant Program’s unrestricted $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000 annual grants are intended to recognize exceptional emerging artists working in Chicago, and support the advancement of their artistic careers. The program, founded in 2013, serves the Chicago Artists Coalition’s mission of supporting local artists’ practices and professional development. 

About the Chicago Artists Coalition 
The mission of the Chicago Artists Coalition is to build a sustainable marketplace for entrepreneurial artists and creatives. CAC's programs and events work to help drive the local cultural economy and build a strong arts community in Chicago. CAC is committed to cultivating groundbreaking exhibitions and educational opportunities, and to building a diverse community of artistic leaders that defines the place of art and artists in our vibrant city. 

For details, visit: 
Follow CAC on Twitter & Instagram: @CACoalition  
And on Facebook: @chicagoartistscoalition 

Contact: Stephanie Lentz, Director of Development, Chicago Artists Coalition,, 312.491.8888x102.