Press Release


Chicago-based The Public Square has moved to the

Illinois Humanities Council

The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is pleased to announce that The Public Square has formally become part of the IHC. Now known as The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council, their stellar programming will continue, including Café Society, weekly coffee shop conversations about contemporary social issues and “Know More: Conversations that Matter,” a series of discussions on art and issues in the West Englewood neighborhood. This month, The Public Square at the IHC introduces “Civic Cinema,” a series of screenings and conversations that uses documentary films as a point of departure for talking about some of the most pressing and challenging social issues facing us.

Founded in 2000, The Public Square has carved out a unique place in the cultural life of Chicago metro through innovative programming that fosters debate, dialogue, and exchange of ideas about cultural, social, and political issues with an emphasis on social justice. All Public Square programs promote participatory democracy by creating space for public conversations. Former Executive Director of The Public Square Barbara Ransby will continue to have an active role as Chair of the Advisory Board.

Co-founder and Director of the Public Square at the IHC Lisa Yun Lee said: “As one of The Public Square’s earliest supporters and partners in programming, The Illinois Humanities Council has consistently reaffirmed their commitment to our mission of building bridges between different communities and our efforts to deepen and expand how we think of citizenship and democracy: globally, historically, across the lines of gender, class, race, language and borders. This represents an extraordinary opportunity for The Public Square to grow and reach new audiences.”

IHC Executive Director Kristina A. Valaitis explained the value of this new venture: “As a catalyst in imaginative ventures which have brought scholarship into the public forum for more than 30 years, the IHC is thrilled to bring these exciting programs to IHC audiences. At a time when cable news offers loud and limited perspectives in the name of debate and diversity of opinion, The Public Square creates a space for people, representing a variety of perspectives, to think and talk about important contemporary issues in a truly substantive way throughout Chicago metro. We share this mission with them and now working under one roof, we are thinking and talking together about how we can take this work further into other Illinois communities.”

The IHC and The Public Square have worked on a number of programs together

including the upcoming January 20th program on “The Civil Rights Movement on the International Stage” at the Newberry Library. In addition, the IHC was the first public funder of Café Society, which is designed to foster a more robust civil society, more cohesive and interactive communities, greater media literacy and a more informed and engaged citizenry. Current media reports (along with ample doses of caffeine) serve as stimulants for the conversations at coffeehouses and barbershops in neighborhoods around Chicago. The IHC hopes to replicate Café Society in other parts of Illinois.

Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the IHC makes grants and creates educational opportunities that bring together humanities scholars and people from all walks of life to reflect, think critically, and actively exchange ideas. Programs include week-long summer seminars for Illinois K-12 teachers; a year-long, college-level humanities course for low-income adults in Chicago and Springfield; and a grants program that funds non-profit organizations producing library discussions, lecture series, exhibits, living history theater, films, publications, fairs, workshops, and issues forums. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.


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