Press Release

Arts in the Cemetery, Midwest Women Artists Conference, Mexico-Chicago Literature Festival and Podcasts by Men of Color Among Statewide Projects Selected for Illinois Humanities Funding

Sept. 5, 2019, Chicago—The Illinois Humanities board of directors announced today it has approved funding for 12 Community Grants projects totaling $55,450, supporting organizations that help bolster local cultural organizations and networks, and make lifelong learning and civic engagement accessible to audiences across the state.

“Illinois Humanities is proud to support not-for-profit organizations that promote the importance of the humanities in private and public life,” said Illinois Humanities Executive Director Gabrielle Lyon, PhD. “These champions of the humanities make their communities and our whole state more vibrant.”

The Community Grants program guidelines include three areas of activity: Vision grants, for planning and evaluation; Action grants, for projects meant to grow audience, experiment with interactive programming and try out new digital tools; and Multiplier grants, for ambitious statewide or regional partnerships. The next Community Grants deadline is September 15th. Grants are awarded three times a year, and Illinois Humanities has given out $17 million in grants since its inception.

Of the 12 projects approved, five are either located outside of Chicago or are statewide initiatives. The grants include:

  • Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project, for the “Building Communities of Change” initiative, a series of discussions and workshops between artists and educators ($4,100)
  • Orpheus Mandolin Orchestra Ltd, for “An Early Gibson Show and Tell: The Central Illinois Roots of Lloyd Loar,” a workshop on the creator of the F-5 mandolin and native of Cropsey, Ill., to be held Oct. 9-13, 2019 in Bloomington-Normal ($1,000)
  • City Lit Theater Company, for the “Books on the Chopping Block” program, a partnership with the American Library Association and part of the annual Banned Book Week, Sept. 22-28, 2019 ($1,000)
  • Bradley University, Dept of Art and Design, for the conference Midwest Women Artists: Champions of the Environment, 1970s to the Present, to be held in Peoria Nov. 7-8, 2019 ($4,100)
  • Community TV Network, for “The Good of Chicago: Humboldt Park” initiative, which aims to lift up the voices of young people, small business owners, artists, and others ($1,450)
  • MAKE Literary Productions, for the annual Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature and Art, which provides cultural exchange between writers and visual artists from Mexico and Chicago, to take place Oct. 12-19 ($4,100)
  • Coles County Arts Council, for the “Arts in the Cemetery” program, combining dramatic performance with visual arts lectures and musical performance (Sept. 28) and amateur photo contest ($900)
  • Monmouth College, for the 5th annual Classics Day, to take place in 2020 ($2,100)
  • ConTextos, for the podcast series “Complicating the Narrative,” which will allow young men of color to publish their memoirs ($4,000)
  • Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, for the 3rd annual “Destinos” Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, which will include 93 performances, 10 student matinees, 50 post-show discussions, four panel discussions and three workshops (Sept. 19-Oct. 27) ($12,600)
  • Chicago Public Art Group, for curriculum and programming for the “Northwest Portage Walking Museum,” an outdoor museum that will stretch for eight miles along Irving Park Road ($10,100)
  • Restore Justice Foundation, for “Beyond Cook County: Community Dialogues and Partnerships,” in collaboration with the Kindling Group ($10,000)

Myrna Salazar, executive director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, said, “The essence of ‘Destinos’ is to celebrate and examine the Latino experience. We are truly honored to have been entrusted with a grant from Illinois Humanities to tell our stories. Together we fuel the vital connection between the community and the arts, which in turn nourishes the mind and spirits of multi-cultural audiences across many artistic disciplines.”

Sarah Ross, co-director of exhibitions and events for the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project, described the Building Communities of Change initiative: “In order to support incarcerated people in prison and when they get out, we need to build a community response, in our institutions and in our neighborhoods. This grant allows us to bring together people across the state who are doing art, educational and advocacy work around criminalization and incarceration. We hope to expand our networks as a source of sustenance and support for each other and people inside prisons.”

Carolyn Stephens, project director for the Arts in the Cemetery series in Coles County, is “grateful for the grant from Illinois Humanities as it will help us bring this event to our community and make it accessible to those who need assistance in travelling across a cemetery during the guided tour. The grant will also enable us to produce a self-guided cemetery tour booklet for residents and visitors who are interested in local history.”

Coles County Arts Council President Charlotte England is “so excited to see this project coming together through the generous support of Illinois Humanities and the hard work of committee members from different community cultural organizations.”

Grace Cooper, executive director of ConTextos, said the IH grant will help launch a podcast featuring the voices of people she says are often overlooked. “Through this podcast, we seek to add context beyond the misconceptions commonly associated with people living in communities plagued by violence,” she said. “Six producers are responsible for producing six episodes, including brainstorming episode topics, research, conducting interviews, recording and editing.”

The focus for the 2019 Midwest Women Artists Symposium – women environmental and eco artists since the 1960s – is particularly relevant, says Kristan McKinsey, director of Illinois Women Artists Project, an initiative of Bradley University’s department of art and design. “Speakers and attendees at MWAS will come away from the event with a new understanding of the evolution of the impact of environmental art in the Midwest, based on the personal testimony of the artists themselves as well as contemporary observers.”

Community Grants program deadlines in 2020 are January 15, May 15 and September 15.

About Illinois Humanities: For more than 45 years, Illinois Humanities has been committed to expanding access to the humanities for all Illinoisans. Illinois Humanities works to strengthen the social, political, and economic fabric of Illinois through constructive conversation and community engagement. Using the humanities as tools to stimulate civic engagement and discussion, Illinois Humanities creates experiences across Illinois through programming, exhibitions, education, and grantmaking to engage a diverse public on ideas and issues that matter.

For more information on the grants program, visit or contact Mark Hallett at