CFA the only film org to receive a MacArthur grant

Not only was it wonderful that Chicago Film Archives received a $200,000 2016 MacArthur Foundation Award, but that it was the only film recipient among the nonprofit Creative & Effective Institution awardees was amazing.

And for the first time, all 14 award recipients were exclusively-Chicago nonprofit organizations, that received a total donation of $5.5 million.

“Chicago’s arts community is vibrant and economically vital to the region … I wanted people to feel the weight of our support and respect for the cultural infrastructure of the city,” said Julia Stasch, MacArthur Foundation president, in announcing the awards Feb. 18.

The honor was particularly special, “because they recognized that we record an art form of the 20th century and so much of our work is back room intensive and doesn’t see the light of day.” said Executive Director Nancy Watrous, who founded CFA in 2003.

“And this is the first time that any media preservation organization had won a award in the MacArthur Foundation’s 10 year history.”

Like most of the theatre and art center awardees, Chicago Film Archives will use its $200,000 award to establish a reserve fund and invest in the long-term management of its digital assets.

At present, CFA has 111 different film collections of professional and amateur films and the cultural gems of home movies.  They range from a single film to the 5,000 16mm films of early and mid-century Chicago that Watrous acquired in 2003 from the Chicago Public Library when it could no longer maintain the collection.  Its second largest collection is union cinematographer Frank Koza’s 2,500 newsreels dating from the 1920s to the 1980s.

CFA offices and vault are located at 329 W. 18th in a repurposed warehouse that houses a variety of visual arts, media and technology companies. Amy Belotti is collections manager/digital archivist and Brian Belak is processing archivist/client services.   

For the full list of 2016 MacArthur recipients, click here.