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Second Round of Activate History Grants to Promote Local Exhibits & Collections Announced by Illinois Humanities 

Diverse Projects Cover The Work of Carlos Cortéz, A Viking Ship and More

Chicago, Oct. 12, 2020—Illinois Humanities has approved its second round of “Activate History” microgrants, established to allow groups with important and diverse local collections to host creative exhibits.  The four grants to a group of community-based organizations and individuals will support exhibits ranging from the artwork of a leading Illinois community artist to tours of an actual Viking ship and more.

“The catalyst for these grants is that we are learning more and more about fantastic local collections and the professional or volunteer historians who steward them and are looking for opportunities to make them better known,’ said Mark Hallett, program manager, grants, for Illinois Humanities. “This grants opportunity is meant to be accessible and is open to organizations and individuals alike.”

A grants advisory team, hosted by Illinois Humanities, considers the proposals. Grants of $500 are made to groups and individuals to allow them to move forward with their ideas. Applicants can request an additional $100 to help make their programs more accessible.

The Lithuanian Archives Project, based in Chicago, plans to use funds to host an online event to celebrate Lithuanian Independence Day, on Feb. 16th, 2021. The Project houses several online collections, such as the Sophie Barcus Radio Program Collection and the Žiburėlis Lithuanian Montessori Collection — to name a few.

“Our collections are mostly of post-World War II manuscripts and photos donated by families and found in basements of buildings, though we have pictures and documents that span earlier and later generations,’ said Audra Adomenas, president of the Project. “This microgrant means that we can celebrate our heritage properly and be able to share our collections with others at no charge. We truly appreciate this opportunity and every chance that we can get to make archival material freely available to all who are interested.”

Jose Luis Benavides, a Chicago artist, writer, filmmaker and educator, will host a dialogue around the woodcut posters of Mexican-American artist Carlos Cortéz Koyokuikatla for the Anisinabe Waki-Aztlán exhibit of Native American and Chicano art (1977-1980). To be produced in partnership with John Guevara of the independent arts space Chuquimarca, the virtual event will feature Cortez’ rare spirit of comradery and political solidarity, but also highlight Chicana printmaker, artist and educator Nicole Marroquin as well as indigenous printmaker, artist and scholar Dylan A.T. Miner of the Métis first nation peoples.

“Cortéz’ legacy is still unfolding, and being in conversation with Dylan A.T. Miner and Nicole Marroquin feels legendary to us,’ said Benavides. “We’re honored to highlight Cortéz’ work as well as the artistic labor of two tremendous artists, bridging gaps between communities, histories and stories of resistance in such crucial and uplifting ways.”

Located in Good Templar Park in Geneva, Ill., the Viking ship is a 78-foot historical and cultural mega-artifact, the largest surviving display from the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Through careful planning, the Friends of the Viking Ship has managed to stabilize the ship’s physical condition, provide personal guided tours of the ship to over 12,000 visitors since 2008, and set aside funds for an eventual climate-controlled building to protect it.

“As an event, the Columbian Exposition of 1893 put Chicago on the international map,’ said David Nordin, vice president, Friends of the Viking Ship. “This is the first Viking-style ship built since the ancient Viking age, and its successful non-stop voyage across the North Atlantic riveted the world’s attention. It was a source of immense pride to the millions of 19th and early 20th century Scandinavian immigrants to America.”

Friends will use funds to host a meeting of public school, private school and home school teachers on how to best interpret the ship to meet their current curriculum needs. The purpose of the meeting will be to obtain input from educators on how to best use this amazing local artifact to meet their specific objectives for their students on a recurring yearly basis. “We expect this meeting to have lasting benefit for many more thousands of students for years to come,” said Nordin.

The Uptown-based Haitian American Museum of Chicago, led by HAMOC founder and president Elsie Hernandez, is going to carry out an event entitled “The Power of Oral Histories: Remembering and Recording Everyday Voices.” As part of Black History Month 2021, HAMOC will collaborate with Haitian-American historian Dr. Courtney Joseph, an assistant professor at Lake Forest College. HAMOC’s educator, Ben Henderson, will interview Dr. Joseph on her research into the Haitian diaspora in the Chicagoland area, and highlight the value of oral histories, as well as the challenges of collecting oral histories from marginalized groups. Dr. Joseph will illustrate the oral history process for the audience by conducting a practice interview as part of the event.

Specific dates, times and locations for these dialogues will be forthcoming.

The full list of microgrants from this round is:

  • Friends of the Viking Ship / A Viking Voyage through History ($500) – Naperville, Ill.
  • Haitian American Museum of Chicago / The Power of Oral Histories ($600) – Chicago, Ill.
  • Jose Luis Benavides / Anisinabe Waki-Aztlán Posters (1977-1980) ($600) – Chicago, Ill.
  • Lithuanian Archives Project / Celebrating Lithuanian Independence Day ($500) – Chicago, Ill.

The next “Activate History” microgrants deadline is March 1, 2021. Click here for more information.


About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. Illinois Humanities is a nonprofit organization and the state’s affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.