Arts & Culture
We believe in a vibrant and accessible cultural life for all and aim to foster innovation, creativity and personal expression that contribute to building and sustaining strong cultural communities. By making timely and often unrestricted gifts to cultural institutions and projects, the Foundation supports an environment where artists have the opportunity to create works that shift expectations, provide social and political context through creative acts, and contribute to new ways of experiencing the world.
The Foundation supports a wide range of cultural endeavors. Special emphasis is given to:
- Living composers, choreographers, artists and media makers
- Projects that include politically and socially engaged exhibits, films and performances
- Organizations and programs that support access for all to participate in creative expression and learning
- Artists and audiences of underrepresented communities
The Harris Theater for music and Dance: “An astonishingly beautiful place”
In 1993, Joan Harris recognized a critical need for a modern, mid-size theater space appropriate for a wide range of small music and dance companies in Chicago. Knowing that filling that gap was fundamental to the long-term vibrancy and vitality of Chicago’s arts community, Joan and Irving Harris in partnership with other civic leaders founded the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, a 1,525-seat state-of-the art performance venue located in Chicago’s Millennium Park. The first multi-use performance venue built in downtown Chicago for over seven decades when it opened in 2003, the theater features the most diverse offerings of any venue in Chicago, hosting local, national, and internationally renowned artists and ensembles. It has been described by arts critics as “an astonishingly beautiful place to listen to music” and as a theater that confers “instant prominence and credibility to musicians and presenters.”
The Harris Theater is Chicago’s primary residence for music and dance, connecting diverse audiences with outstanding artists from across the city, the nation, and the world. The Theater’s activities fall under three central strategies: support for local music and dance companies; community engagement and educational programs; and presentation of national and international artists. The Theater serves as a unique national model of collaboration between the philanthropic community and performing arts organizations in music and dance. Its original group of 12 resident companies has grown to include 35 diverse organizations, including internationally acclaimed Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Music of the Baroque, Chicago Opera Theater, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNow, and collaborations with Lyric Opera of Chicago, National Museum of Mexican Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Columbia College Chicago. Through these partnerships, the Theater has earned national recognition as a distinctive model for collaboration, performance, and artistic advancement.
The Harris Theater is also dedicated to presenting internationally acclaimed music and dance organizations to enhance its reputation as well as to help build audiences for the Theater’s resident companies. Through the Harris Theater Presents series, the Theater has achieved widespread recognition as a vital cultural anchor in Chicago. Daniel Barenboim, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Renee Fleming, the Hamburg Ballet, Lang Lang, the New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Stephen Sondheim and many others have performed there. The Theater also maintains a commitment to engaging Chicago residents of all ages and communities, partnering with health and human service agencies, K–12 schools and community arts organizations, and providing more than 10,000 underwritten performance tickets since 2009, along with master classes, artist talks and other enrichment activities.