We Do Our Part

Chicago, IL   |
GuideStar Charity Check


EIN: 80-0448191


American Blues Theater is an Ensemble of artists committed to producing new and classic American stories that ask the question: "What does it mean to be American?"

Ruling year info


Exec. Artistic Director

Gwendolyn Whiteside

Main address

4809 N. Ravenswood Ave., Suite 221

Chicago, IL 60640 USA

Show more contact info



Subject area info


Education services

Community service

Population served info

Children and youth


NTEE code info

Theater (A65)

IRS subsection

501(c)(3) Public Charity

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Tax forms



What we aim to solve

This profile needs more info.

If it is your nonprofit, add a problem overview.

Login and update

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Theatrical programs

American Blues serves over 20,000 patrons annually through mainstage productions and additional programmatic activities. American Blues produces classic American plays and musicals as well as presenting contemporary work. The theater is dedicated to new work development, exemplified through the nationally recognized Blue Ink Award, the annual "The Ripped Festival", and commissions, workshops, and staged-readings. The commitment to arts education is paramount as the theater's free, innovative arts education program serves nearly 4,000 Chicago Public School students annually.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

American Blues Theater has four major goals:
1) to provide exceptional mainstage productions to Chicago audiences using the American Blues Theater Ensemble theater-making practice
2) to partner community service with each mainstage production
3) to provide quality arts education to Chicago Public Schools and other surrounding communities.
4) to operate fiscally responsible and never run a deficit.

American Blues Theater adopted a three-year strategic plan to ensure our goals are met. Administration and the Board of Directors review monthly through targeted committees and bi-monthly at the Board of Directors' meetings. The strategic plan divides the art and business and provides both qualitative and quantitative metrics.

American Blues Theater is carefully managed and never run a deficit. The administration is growing so quickly that we'll add a Managing Director in FY17. The additional full-time senior staff employee will join the Producing Artistic Director and General Manager.

Currently, American Blues Theater is an itinerant theater. Blues wishes to find a long-term venue to produce their work.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We share the feedback we received with the people we serve, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback


Fiscal year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2023 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 147.27 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2023 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 9.4 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2023 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 8% over 10 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data


Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data


Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of AMERICAN BLUES THEATER’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

Created in partnership with

Business model indicators

Profitability info 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation $337,694 $97,417 $696,266 $3,131,457 -$18,727
As % of expenses 26.7% 10.9% 105.2% 349.0% -2.1%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation $328,194 $88,231 $687,080 $3,122,456 -$26,628
As % of expenses 25.8% 9.7% 102.4% 344.6% -3.0%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $1,306,979 $889,036 $1,081,341 $2,614,006 $3,269,869
Total revenue, % change over prior year -66.0% -32.0% 21.6% 141.7% 25.1%
Program services revenue 35.8% 32.2% 8.6% 4.8% 4.0%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 8.9% 11.3% 2.1% 6.4% 3.5%
Government grants 2.6% 3.1% 30.1% 8.3% 2.8%
All other grants and contributions 51.6% 46.6% 55.5% 77.2% 89.9%
Other revenue 1.1% 6.8% 3.7% 3.2% -0.2%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $1,262,941 $897,001 $661,786 $897,175 $886,260
Total expenses, % change over prior year 18.1% -29.0% -26.2% 35.6% -1.2%
Personnel 27.2% 36.1% 46.9% 38.8% 38.7%
Professional fees 37.5% 31.0% 22.2% 34.3% 32.4%
Occupancy 12.1% 15.7% 7.2% 10.6% 11.3%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.6% 1.7%
Pass-through 0.3% 0.6% 10.1% 0.6% 1.0%
All other expenses 22.9% 16.5% 13.6% 15.1% 14.9%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Total expenses (after depreciation) $1,272,441 $906,187 $670,972 $906,176 $894,161
One month of savings $105,245 $74,750 $55,149 $74,765 $73,855
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $62,645 $0 $0
Fixed asset additions $0 $0 $0 $1,944,990 $405,151
Total full costs (estimated) $1,377,686 $980,937 $788,766 $2,925,931 $1,373,167

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Months of cash 7.2 8.0 6.9 7.0 21.8
Months of cash and investments 33.8 47.8 83.9 56.5 75.3
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 8.4 13.1 30.3 45.0 40.0
Balance sheet composition info 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Cash $757,200 $597,642 $379,959 $522,498 $1,611,416
Investments $2,803,912 $2,974,488 $4,249,199 $3,702,653 $3,950,015
Receivables $0 $5,700 $120,991 $92,981 $1,087,605
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $69,500 $70,689 $74,274 $2,019,265 $2,424,416
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 48.0% 60.2% 69.6% 3.0% 2.8%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 0.0% 1.9% 0.1% 8.7% 6.3%
Unrestricted net assets $917,697 $1,005,928 $1,693,008 $4,815,464 $4,788,836
Temporarily restricted net assets $2,695,006 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $2,695,006 $2,589,655 $3,122,456 $965,360 $3,677,255
Total net assets $3,612,703 $3,595,583 $4,815,464 $5,780,824 $8,466,091

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Material data errors No No No No No


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Exec. Artistic Director

Gwendolyn Whiteside

Gwendolyn Whiteside is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and has served as Exec. Artistic Director since 2010. Under her leadership, she created the nationally-recognized annual Blue Ink Award, implemented community service into the company's vision, and adapted the arts education program for Chicago Public Schools which serves over 4,000 students annually. She led American Blues through its reorganization in 2009, building the operational budget from zero to $1 million. She secured the company's first-ever operating reserve and endowment. Whiteside served numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and sat on the national Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters and League of Chicago Theatres. She's a graduate of Northwestern University (BS), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University).

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990


Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

There are no highest paid employees recorded for this organization.


Board of directors
as of 09/23/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Keith Karlson

Keith Karlson

Gwendolyn Whiteside

Kimberlee Herold

Manny Buckley

Editha Rosario

David Coffin

Rama Ranganathan

Michael Levinson

Chris Motogawa

Jeremy Zednick

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 9/23/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 09/23/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.