Press Release

National Humanities Conference Comes to Chicago November 15-18, 2012

CHICAGO, IL October 9, 2012 In November, following the Presidential Election, the U.S. state humanities councils will gather in Chicago to take stock of their past and plan for the future. For nearly 40 years the councils have initiated and supported civic engagement, education, and cultural enrichment in a wide-variety of rural and urban communities across the country.   

This year, the Federation of State Humanities Councils will hold the annual National Humanities Conference (NHC), November 15-18, 2012, at the InterContinental Chicago Hotel. The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), a member of the Federation and an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be the host council. The 2012 NHC theme is Taking Stock, Telling Our Story, Transforming the Future and will be the first time the conference will be held in Chicago in more than 20 years.

The economic downturn, political climate and proximity to Election Day make this year’s theme of reflection, best practices, and future messaging increasingly important.  At the NHC, panelists and speakers will discuss how humanities councils can continue to be nimble, collaborative, and reliable partners and advocates in helping Americans appreciate the values, ideas and experiences that can sometimes be lost in such a fast-moving and bustling society.

Speaking to the conference themes is an array of panelists and speakers, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson, President of the Mellon Foundation Don Randel and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chairperson James A. Leach. Other highlights include in-depth tours of local Chicago destinations like The National Museum of Mexican Art, The Newberry Library and Millennium Park.

“We are delighted to be the host council for the conference,” stated Kristina Valaitis, IHC Executive Director.  “Although we address these issues year round with our partners, to have them here in Chicago as speakers and panelists is a tremendous opportunity for us to interact and inspire each other.”

Conference attendees include invited speakers, council staff members and representatives from the councils’ boards and partners, who are leaders within numerous cultural, educational, social service, community and civic organizations across the country. Their participation represents some of the broad impact and influence of the humanities’ council’s work, a value reflected in a statement in Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s official proclamation for National Arts and Humanities Month this October, that the nonprofit cultural sector generates $2.8 billion in total economic activity annually in Illinois and supports the equivalent of 78,000 full-time jobs. 

The National Humanities Conference will take place November 15-18, 2012, at the InterContinental Chicago Hotel (505 N. Michigan Avenue). Registration is now open to the public (at the non-member rate).  Information, including the conference schedule, registration guide and hotel reservations is available on the Federation’s website: For more information about IHC, please visit:, or call (312) 422-5580.

About the Speakers
Don Randel:
Don Randel, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a widely published music historian who has written and spoken extensively about the future of the humanities.

Isabel Wilkerson: Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and the first African-American to win for individual reporting. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Warmth of Other Suns, a story documenting one of the greatest, underreported migrations that reshaped modern America. She has spoken at universities across the country and in Europe, and has appeared on national networks including: CBS, PBS, NPR, NBC and C-SPAN.

Cathy Cohen: Cathy Cohen is a political science professor at the University of Chicago and author of two books: Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics and, The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics

James (Jim) A. Leach: Jim Leach is chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and formerly a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa.

About the Federation of State Humanities Councils

The Federation of State Humanities Councils, founded in 1977, is the membership association of 56 state and territorial councils. Through its program of research, conferences, collaborative projects, and communication to members, legislators and others on issues of public interest, the Federation provides support for the state humanities councils and strives to create greater awareness of the humanities in public and private life. 

About the Illinois Humanities Council

The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. The IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of,
appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds. 

Media Contact:
At the Illinois Humanities Council:
Carlos Velázquez (principal media contact)
(312) 422-5580, x233 

At the Federation of State Humanities Councils:
Shannon R. Loburk
(703) 908-9700 ext. 212