People Supporting the Arts


Lake-Front-Cliff-Dwellers2-1024x222While this website is primarily a resource for the members of the Cliff Dwellers (a private club), the Directors understand that visitors to these pages may be interested in how membership is accorded, the various types of membership that have been created, and what the Club offers to members and their guests.

Following are the most common inquiries along with response information that was in effect at the time of posting. If you have other questions, kindly send them to either the postal address or or check out the contents of other pages included in this website. We do appreciate your interest in The Cliff Dwellers, now in its second century of service!

Q. Who are the members of The Cliff Dwellers and what ties them to the Club?

A. The Cliff Dwellers predominantly are Chicago-area residents who have a serious interest in the arts. Many are, or have been, actively engaged in music, painting, writing, acting, architecture, design, and related categories. Some are directly involved in arts education and a substantial percentage of the membership consists of business men and women who support the arts through their regular attendance at concerts, theater events, art exhibitions, or humanities lectures, for example, or via financial sponsorship. It is this need and the delight in sympathetic involvement that brings them together in a social environment made possible by the Club.

Q. What is the size of the membership and what are the membership categories?

A. As of the end of 2007, total membership was more than 400. Membership classifications are: Allied Arts (design, fashion), Architecture, Drama (includes acting, directing, and script writing), Literature (includes the writing of criticism), Music (includes composers as well as performers), Painting (includes photography), Professional Educator, Sculpture, and Lay Member No percentage or ratio is in effect among the various classifications. Non-Resident status is available to members whose principal residence is more than 40 miles from Chicago.

Q. Are any club benefits extended to the spouse of a member?

A. Spouses are entitled to full use of the club’s facilities, including dining with  guests and making reservations for events. Voting and holding office, though, are functions limited to the members themselves.

Q. Other than sharing a common interest in the fine arts, how else are the members, as a Club, involved in supporting cultural activities and local organizations?

A. For nearly as long as the Club has been in existence, it has operated a non-profit foundation to provide funds to various individuals and groups chosen from nominations made by the membership. For example, The Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation (a separate, not-for-profit affiliate) recently made grants to the Mostly Music Series at Northeastern University, Dance Chicago, The American Guild of Organists, Merit School of Music, William Ferris Chorale, Chicago Youth Symphony, and the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. All grants were funded via yearly donations by Club members. (See the Foundation’s separate section on this website.)

In the year 2000, the Club initiated a new program, Artists-in-Residence, as a means for local younger artists and performers to come together during a one- year period as a diverse working group. The objectives are to foster a mutual appreciation of the inter-relationship of the arts and to provide a site both for meetings and the presentation of their abilities to a compatible audience of Club members. The participants pay no dues during their class year and then have the option to apply for full Club membership upon completion of the program. Class size has ranged from as few as five to as many as twenty participants. Announcements of each year’s program are posted at various institutions and organizations to solicit applications, from which a committee of Club members makes a selection. Every applicant must be at least 24 years of age but no older than 38 and be engaged in professional activity in the arts. (See the A-I-R section on this website.)

Q. What kinds of social and arts-oriented events are offered to members monthly?

A. Typically, the Art Committee prepares a showing in the Club gallery every four to six weeks. The works most often are by a single artist who typically is introduced to members with a reception shortly after the exhibit is mounted. The events scheduled by the Program Committee vary from month to month, but often there is a lunchtime speaker (such as recently-published authors), a music program, a timely lecture on a major museum exhibition, or some other evening offering that may be combined with a specialty dinner. Many of these programs, including the presentations by the current Artists-in-Residence class, are available to members without charge.

Q. Is there a dress code for dining or for attending events?

A. The Club has had a long tradition of accepting freedom of choice and at most of the events, as well as at mealtime, casual attire mixes with business dress. On special occasions, formal attire may be suggested but options remain in effect.

The Members Table

The Members Table

Q. What facilities are available to members for dining and other activities?

A. The Cliff Dwellers club is essentially a venue where members meet for dining and discussion. Within the clubhouse are the main dining-performance area (which also contains the exhibition gallery) known as the Kiva; a separate but smaller room for meetings and private dining; a fireside lounge area with comfortable chairs, a close-by bar, and racks for periodicals; plus the kitchen, offices, and restrooms. A spacious outdoor deck opens directly from the Kiva, allowing for seasonal table service. Provision is made for reciprocal dining and other guest privileges at some two dozen other private clubs in the Chicago area and elsewhere, including locations in Canada, England, and Australia.

Q. Are there dining arrangements for members who come to the club alone?

A. It has been the policy of The Cliff Dwellers to accommodate any member by offering a table for private use. However, at lunch (Monday through Friday), the club maintains the tradition of a members’ open table. Here, individual Cliff Dwellers are welcome to join others in accompanying their dining with congenial participation in conversation, serious or otherwise.

Q. Assuming that private parties and dinners can be accommodated, is it the policy of the Club to furnish all services (other than entertainment)?

A. Members have the right to reserve part or all of the Club facilities for almost any evening or Saturday private function, and the Sullivan meeting room during the noon hour as well as evenings on weekdays. Arrangements have to be made in advance with the Club Manager, who will work with a member in planning a menu, bar service, and other needs. Current policy calls for the club to provide all required food and beverages. Assisting in any special services may require additional costs based on whatever expenses are incurred.

Q. What are the sources of income for operating the Club and its activities?

A. The Cliff Dwellers will base yearly budgets on membership fees, dining room and bar service sales, profits from certain program events, and income from the frequent private functions.

Q. Are there restrictions as to age or minimum usage of facilities or number of guests?

A. Nominees for membership must be at least 25 years of age. While members are urged to use Club facilities regularly, there is no requirement as to the number of times or any minimum monthly expenditure. Up to ten guests at one time may be invited to join a member for any regular dining service (reservations are urged) unless special arrangements are made.

Q. How would an interested individual, whose profile fits the aforementioned member classifications, make it known that he or she would want to be considered for membership in the Cliff Dwellers?

A. There are standing procedures regarding application for membership. Please see the separate section on this website devoted to Membership information.

Rev. April 2008