Project Onward is a nonprofit studio and gallery for professional artists with mental and developmental disabilities.

Mission

Project Onward supports the professional development of artists with exceptional talents and challenges, ranging from autism to mental illness, and provides these artists with workspace, materials, professional guidance, exhibition opportunities and access to markets to sell their work and advance their careers.

Become an Artist

Project Onward serves over 45 artists, each with unique creative styles and facing diverse challenges, from autism to mental illness. All artists pass through a competitive selection process that evaluates their artistic talent, potential for creative growth and desire to advance as a professional artist before joining Project Onward. Member artists range in age from early-20s to early-70s and represent over 30 Chicago neighborhoods and several suburbs.

Artists who are interested in applying for participation in the Project Onward studio program must be 18 years or older and living with a developmental disability and/or mental illness, and have experience with personal art making. To learn more about our application process and eligibility requirements, click here to download an Artist Application.

History

Project Onward was founded in the summer of 2004 as a Gallery 37 pilot initiative for 8 artists who had aged-out of the local youth job-training organization’s program, but due to their disabilities they had no opportunities elsewhere to advance their artistic careers. After a successful year, the program became a part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and moved to the Chicago Cultural Center, where it became a citywide resource and began serving artists outside of Gallery 37. The program quickly established itself and became locally recognized for the high quality of its artistic product and respected for its mission, and in 2008, the organization moved to larger quarters in the Cultural Center.

In 2013, after several years of progressive growth and increasing independence, Project Onward moved to a professional artists’ studio and gallery in the Bridgeport Art Center, The 13,000 square foot space includes three galleries and a studio customized to the needs of the organization’s growing artist membership. After nine years as a city-led program, Project Onward began the transition to becoming an independent nonprofit. Project Onward celebrates 2014 not only as its tenth year as an artistic and social resource for Chicago, but as the first year of a dynamic new period of growth and creativity.

To learn more about Project Onward, please contact: info [at] projectonward.org.