Creating. Sharing. Growing.

Chicago, IL   |
GuideStar Charity Check


EIN: 36-4284473


Arts of Life advances the creative arts community by providing artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities a collective space to expand their practice and strengthen their leadership.

Ruling year info


Principal Officer

Ms. Denise Fisher

Main address

2010 W Carroll Ave

Chicago, IL 60612 USA

Show more contact info



Subject area info

Arts and culture

Developmental disability services

Population served info

People with disabilities

People with psychosocial disabilities

People with intellectual disabilities

NTEE code info

Developmentally Disabled Services/Centers (P82)

Arts, Cultural Organizations - Multipurpose (A20)

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Most individuals with disabilities rely on federally funded programs to live and work in their respective communities. However, government resources available to Illinois residents with disabilities are astoundingly scarce. In the 2013 State of the States annual report, Illinois was ranked 50th of all 50 states in services and support for Americans with disabilities. Those fortunate enough to receive support are presented with a narrow field of services, most of which provide outdated and limited resources. Most day programs available to disabled Illinois residents don’t allow for choice of field or professional development opportunities. As a result, many individuals with disabilities do light labor or other menial work—such as assembly work in factory-like sheltered workshops—and they are paid a fraction of a cent for every task they complete (NHPR, 2015). We at Arts of Life make artistic vocational opportunities available to the disabled community.

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?

Artist Enterprise Program

AEP is a comprehensive and structured initiative to advance the artists’ professional development. Within AEP, each artist has the opportunity to identify with one of five career tracks—Foundation, Maker, Curator, Career, Educator—and the related professional development goals within those tracks. This structure—combined with our devoted efforts to increase partnerships, collaborations, and new
opportunities for public exhibition—has been and will continue to be crucial in effectively heightening the visibility of Arts of Life artists as professionals throughout the Chicagoland area.
and beyond.

Population(s) Served
People with intellectual disabilities

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

The Council on Quality and Leadership Inc. 2019

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Total cost of work acquired this year (in dollars)

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, People with intellectual disabilities, People with learning disabilities, People with physical disabilities, People with vision impairments

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Tracking the value of original work made by Arts of Life and guest artists.

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.

OUR VISION is a rich creative arts community where artists with intellectual & developmental disabilities participate through leadership and collaboration.

For many of our studio artists, their work at Arts of Life is the first opportunity they have to become a self-directed member of a positive, supportive community. The Arts of Life studio environment is designed to promote equal ownership for each member which naturally encourages the artists to develop their sense of
independence. Each artist is afforded choice in artistic medium, goals, and daily studio activities. Facilitators help the artists' develop and refine their unique skillsets to allow them to take ownership over their part in studio management, including public relations, human resources, and studio maintenance. Finally, there are no mistakes in art making. Each artistic decision creates a new opportunity for self-discovery, self-confidence, critical thinking, and creative problem solving.

The Arts of Life studio was founded on the idea that the space belongs to the artists. The employees, board members, interns, and volunteers are available to assist artists with the decisions that they make, both collectively and as individuals. We use a collective decision-making process in the studio and give everyone an opportunity to define, shape, and belong to an artistic community. We embrace the idea that our community changes based on the growing needs of the artists, their space, and the surrounding communities in which they are involved.

A core tenet of Arts of Life is to heighten the profile of our artists as true professionals within the greater artistic community. To further concentrate our efforts in this vein, we launched the Artist Enterprise Program (AEP) in January 2017, a comprehensive and structured initiative to advance the artists' professional development. Within AEP, each artist has the opportunity to identify with one of five career tracks — Foundation, Maker, Curator, Career, Educator—and the related professional development goals within those tracks. This structure—combined with our new Art Director's devoted efforts to increase partnerships, collaborations, and new opportunities for public exhibition—has been and will continue to be crucial in effectively heightening the visibility of Arts of Life artists as professionals throughout the Chicagoland area and beyond.

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 shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, 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 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 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
Financial documents
2021 FY21 Audit 2020 FY20 Audit 2019 FY19 Audit 2018 FY18 Audit 2017
done  Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant. info

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 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 6.01 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 3.1 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 22% 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 THE ARTS OF LIFE’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 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation $100,988 -$309 $36,426 $150,823 $353,923
As % of expenses 11.2% 0.0% 3.9% 15.7% 25.7%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation $97,767 -$8,637 $25,697 $140,456 $346,331
As % of expenses 10.8% -1.0% 2.7% 14.5% 25.0%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $929,656 $851,598 $970,408 $1,232,153 $1,651,270
Total revenue, % change over prior year 2.8% -8.4% 14.0% 27.0% 34.0%
Program services revenue 59.7% 58.4% 52.6% 44.8% 52.0%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.3%
Government grants 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
All other grants and contributions 38.4% 40.6% 45.8% 54.1% 46.7%
Other revenue 2.0% 1.0% 1.6% 1.1% 1.0%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $898,668 $899,907 $938,482 $960,078 $1,378,047
Total expenses, % change over prior year 8.0% 0.1% 4.3% 2.3% 43.5%
Personnel 67.4% 64.4% 62.8% 66.8% 62.2%
Professional fees 2.1% 2.3% 5.4% 6.9% 5.0%
Occupancy 14.0% 14.9% 14.9% 13.8% 12.1%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0%
Pass-through 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
All other expenses 16.5% 18.4% 16.9% 12.3% 20.6%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total expenses (after depreciation) $901,889 $908,235 $949,211 $970,445 $1,385,639
One month of savings $74,889 $74,992 $78,207 $80,007 $114,837
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $0 $4,580 $17,649
Fixed asset additions $18,000 $28,437 $0 $0 $0
Total full costs (estimated) $994,778 $1,011,664 $1,027,418 $1,055,032 $1,518,125

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Months of cash 2.2 2.5 4.9 5.5 6.5
Months of cash and investments 2.2 2.5 4.9 5.5 6.5
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 3.2 2.9 3.5 5.2 6.5
Balance sheet composition info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Cash $165,420 $186,879 $383,261 $441,944 $749,640
Investments $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Receivables $141,164 $72,374 $18,547 $113,313 $80,925
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $119,780 $126,468 $128,835 $128,835 $135,607
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 85.1% 70.0% 77.0% 85.1% 86.4%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 6.7% 16.2% 36.2% 8.0% 6.3%
Unrestricted net assets $260,448 $251,811 $277,508 $417,964 $764,295
Temporarily restricted net assets $60,000 $12,000 N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 $0 N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $60,000 $12,000 $7,500 $130,000 $44,581
Total net assets $320,448 $263,811 $285,008 $547,964 $808,876

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Material data errors No No No No No


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

Letter of Determination is not available for this organization
Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Principal Officer

Ms. Denise Fisher

Denise Fisher co-founded Arts of Life, Inc. in 2000. She led the development of an innovative program model, recruitment of artists, staff, and board members, and achieved a 3-year accreditation with The Council of Quality & Leadership (CQL). She has become known and respected in the disability field for her innovative programming, as well as her compassion and advocacy for adults with developmental disabilities. As a child, Denise assisted her mother in a special education classroom. She went on to volunteer at Special Olympics and worked as a summer counselor and cabin leader at New York's Camp Jened. In her professional career, Denise worked for over 10 years in residential and support services for people with developmental disabilities. Denise has her B.A. in education and psychology from Eastern Illinois University. She is also a qualified support professional (QSP), trained to meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities.

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 01/20/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Matt Pettinelli

CapGrow Partners

Bryan Bienias

Seyfarth Shaw, LLP

Matt Michrina


Manik Dewan

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Patty Klingbiel

The Connell Group

Michael Klozotsky

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Swarna Rao

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Bonnie Rosenberg

The Art Institute of Chicago

David Walega

Northwestern Medicine

Alex Gara

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Julie Gustafson

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Mina Hamburg


Gracie Inacay

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Junco Newman

Hiren Prabhakar

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Eric Ruschman

Ruschman Gallery

Max Zelaitis


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 1/20/2023

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
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/19/2023

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 ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • 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 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.