Press Release

New Illinois Humanities Grant Funding Supports Wide Range of Organizations New Illinois Humanities Grant Funding Supports Wide Range of Organizations

Programs will feature an action kit for the Folded Map Project, celebration of the art of Eustasio Rosales, an Earth to Edwardsville initiative and more

April 3, 2020, Chicago—The Illinois Humanities board of directors announced today it has approved funding for 12 Community Grants projects totaling more than $36,000, supporting organizations that help bolster local cultural organizations and networks and make lifelong learning and civic engagement accessible to audiences across the state. Grantees include organizations across Illinois whose programming spans art, music and poetry to criminal justice reform.

“Especially in this moment of duress, Illinois Humanities is proud to support not-for-profit organizations that promote the importance of the humanities in private and public life and that inspire collective action and hope,” 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 May 15th, 2020. 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 located in Chicago, two are located in Chicago’s suburbs, and five are located or feature activity elsewhere in Illinois. The grants include:

The Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Park Forest, plans to use funding to carry out a multi-faceted initiative celebrating the writings of Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. This will include a world premiere co-commission with Anima – Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus, composed by Augusta Read Thomas and featuring texts from Brooks’s “Bronzeville Boys & Girls,” a Chicago Poetry Symposium, youth musical performances and multi-disciplinary workshops at Chicago area public schools.

“During this incredibly difficult and unprecedented moment in human history, looking forward to celebrating great art and a great artist can be a powerful unifying force for our shared humanity,’ said Christina Salerno, IPO’s executive director. “We thank Illinois Humanities for partnering with IPO to make these connections between Brooks and our world possible.”

The Farwell House, in Frederick, which plans to use funding to carry out an initiative called “Object Of My Affection,” was founded in 2016 and is also a first-time grant recipient of Illinois Humanities. Farwell will invite some 20 area residents to identify a physical object that has particular meaning for them, and artists will then photograph them with the objects and interview them about their connection to the objects. This will lead to an exhibit and other events, such as a potluck dinner. “This support from Illinois Humanities is the shot of confidence and reassurance we needed to take the next step forward,’ said Jason Ackman, co-director of Farwell House. “To say we’re thrilled to be receiving this support would be a tremendous understatement. This funding allows us to dig deeper within our community to foster connections between neighbors in new and exciting ways.”

Another new grantee to Illinois Humanities is the Illinois Prison Project, which is carrying out a tour of southern Illinois with the film “Stateville Calling,” which tells the story of an 84-year old activist and the exceptional incarcerated men and women he counts as his closest friends. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring ‘Stateville Calling’ – created to inspire audiences to rethink criminal justice policy, and show how connection can create change in spite of the barriers of prison walls – to audiences throughout the state,” said Jennifer Soble, executive director of the IPP.

“In this moment when many Illinois residents feel imprisoned in their homes, and are more concerned than ever about policy,” Soble continued, “conversation about a criminal justice system that has trapped elderly and vulnerable people in prison for decades is more important than ever before. This incredible opportunity will help us engage directly with communities throughout the state to find paths for working together to create transformative change during unprecedented times.”

Photographer Tonika Johnson and University of Illinois at Chicago professor of sociology Maria Krysan will use funding to create a ‘do it yourself’ platform for people to engage with the “Folded Map” project. Founded by Johnson, the project brings residents (Map Twins) from opposite ends of the same street, in different Chicago neighborhoods, to meet and get to know one another, thereby bridging the divides created by segregation. The “Folded Map Action Kit” will allow residents to complete suggested activities in their ‘twin’ neighborhood, then upload stories, reflections and photos.

“Since we first submitted this grant proposal just over one month ago,’ said the two collaborators, ‘the world has changed dramatically, and what the new normal will be is anybody’s guess. But one thing is certain: This public health crisis will be one more instance in which the deep segregation of Chicago means that the consequences will be felt unevenly throughout the city. The core power of the idea and need for this work will remain as urgently needed as ever.”

“To come out of this a healthier city,’ they continued, “we must recognize the consequences of continued disinvestment and segregation and work to forge connections and build bridges between residents throughout the entire city. We seek to use Folded Map and this Action Kit to seed and grow those connections.”

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

Image: “Washington Park, Chicago, circa 1980s” Photograph by: Rose Blouin


About: Illinois Humanities activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement.