IH Newsletter

Enews November 2021

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness I share the news that Magdalena Slowik, our Director of Development and beloved friend, passed away on October 7th. Magda joined us in January 2020 and saw us through one of the most challenging periods in our organization and nation’s history. Her generosity and genuine devotion to the greater good inspired us throughout the time we knew her — and will continue to inspire us as we celebrate her memory. The contents of this newsletter, in particular, speak to aspects of Illinois Humanities’ mission that Magda was deeply passionate about: the power and importance of local journalism – especially for small communities; the power of shared experiences like book groups and travel to inform and strengthen our collective civic fabric; and the importance of making room for – and supporting – our youngest humanists. We thank everyone who has shared messages of support for Magda’s family and our staff during this challenging time. A challenge grant has been named in her memory. If you would like to support this effort, please make a donation on our website here and indicate that it is a tribute gift in memory of Magda Slowik, or reach out to me directly at gabrielle.lyon@ilhumanities.org.


I hope you’ll find a way to get involved with one of the organizations in the newsletter below — or one of our unique Illinois Humanities programs around the state. We look forward to staying in touch as the winter season unfolds.

The Humanities Mean: Local Journalism

What do the #Humanities mean to us at Illinois Humanities? They mean local conversations informed by local journalism.

In tracing the history of the relationship between hedge funds and the erosion of local media, McKay Coppins from The Atlantic underlines why local journalism is critical to our communities and, in turn, to a thriving democracy:

Illustration: Dan Winters for The Atlantic

“When a local newspaper vanishes, research shows, it tends to correspond with lower voter turnout, increased polarization, and a general erosion of civic engagement.”

#TheHumanitiesMeanJournalism to Illinois Humanities because the survival of local newsrooms and community-informed media, ensures access to crucial information and the preservation, documentation and amplification of community stories and experiences. This is why we are so grateful for the wide ranging and geographically diverse grantee partners that help manifest why the humanities matter through the lens of local journalism: ContratiempoFriends of the Chicago ReporterUrbana-Champaign Independent Media CenterBorderless MagazineCicero IndependienteSouth Side WeeklyPublic Media InstituteCHIRP Radio 107.1FMThe Point MagazineChicago ReviewSixty Inches From CenterFree Spirit MediaTrue Star FoundationWestside Media ProjectCommunity TV Network. We congratulate these grantee partners and thank them for their work to strengthen the civic fabric of Illinois.


You’re Invited! Big Read and Museum on Main Street

Illinois Humanities knows first hand why bringing people together in conversation and collaboration with one another powerfully amplifies the impacts of humanities and arts in rural communities. This is why we are so thrilled to invite you to two unique opportunities to be part of the humanities in action: a virtual WRITING WORKSHOP as part of our NEA Big Read series REMEMORY, December 9th, and the opening of our travelling exhibitions: Voices and Votes at the Jacksonville Area Museum, and the Illinois Freedom Project in Winchester at the Old School Museum.

The next event in Rememory: haunting, trauma, and historical fiction — a free community book group and event series part of and funded by the NEA Big Read initiative — will take place virtually on Thursday, December 9, from 7:00 – 8:30 P.M. CT.

The event, entitled “Some Said You Were the Spitting Image of Evil,” is a writing workshop hosted by Nicole Bond (Smart Museum of Art) and will explore Toni Morrison’s acclaimed novel Beloved, the first book in the Illinois Humanities’ Rememory series. This workshop will be held live on Zoom. Register via our website at ilhumanities.org/lobg. From there, you can also sign up for a book group, learn about more upcoming programming, and request free books in either English or Spanish.

Museum on Main Street Travels to Central Illinois

Matt Meacham, Program Manager for Statewide Engagement, presenting a display at the Voices and Votes exhibit at the Savanna Museum and Cultural Center

Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, the latest traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institute, will be at the Jacksonville Area Museum through December 22.

“We’ve been open to the public less than two months, so to be chosen to host this prestigious exhibit is truly an honor,” said Jacksonville Area Museum Board Chairman David Blanchette. “‘Voices and Votes’ tells the engaging story of our democracy and what it truly means, and the topic couldn’t be more relevant today.”

“Voices and Votes” continues to travel alongside the Illinois Freedom Project exhibit, which will be in Winchester at the Old School Museum through December 18.

These complimentary exhibition tours organized by Illinois Humanities have inspired companion events and visits from field trip groups across the state. Don’t miss these timely explorations of our nation’s democracy. Learn more about these exhibits coming to a main street near you at: ilhumanities.org/moms.


Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards Applications Now Open

We are now accepting applications for the sixth annual Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards! In 2021-2022, Illinois Humanities is partnering with the Poetry Foundation, Brooks Permissions, and UChicago Arts to host this year’s Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards (GBYPA).

The contest is open to young people currently in kindergarten through 12th grade across the state of Illinois. Participating young people can be affiliated with any school (public, private, home, etc) or other institution.

The deadline to apply is May 6th, 2022. Learn more at: ilhumanities.org/poetry


Illinois Humanities Names Susan Eleuterio as Board Chair; National Federation of Humanities Councils Names IH Board member Juana Guzmán to National Board

(Left to Right) Susan Eleuterio and Juana Guzmán

Illinois Humanities is honored to announce that Susan Eleuterio — professional folklorist, civic leader, and educator — has been elected chair of the organization’s Board of Directors, succeeding outgoing chair, Mae Hong, Vice President of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

An Illinois Humanities board member since 2013, Eleuterio has conducted fieldwork, research, and public humanities programming with cultural and ethnic groups across the United States. Her work includes developing exhibits, performances, folk arts education workshops, and residencies in schools, along with professional development programs for teachers, students, adults, and artists for schools, museums, arts education agencies, and arts organizations across the United States.

“The humanities are critical in strengthening the resilience of our communities. I’m honored to work in collaboration with the incredible staff and board of Illinois Humanities to expand crucial access to the humanities throughout the state,” said Eleuterio.

While we’re sharing some great news, we’re thrilled to announce that our Illinois Humanities Board Member Juana Guzmán was elected to join the Federation of State Humanities Councils Board of Directors. We’re thrilled to have an Illinois voice at the national table.


Illinois Humanities Gives Thanks

Photo from Unsplash

Another year of the pandemic has brought its own challenges, but as we near the end of 2021, Illinois Humanities wishes to express its thanks to each and every grantee partner, funder, and supporter who has recognized the essential role the humanities play in each of our lives. Thank you for joining us to champion the incredible work of community leaders across the state.

Without your support, achievements such as the $1.4 million we distributed in COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Grants would not be possible.

This holiday season, give thanks and celebrate your local humanities organization and all the work they do to keep us creative, connected, and in community with one another.

Thank you for your support of Illinois Humanities, enjoy one of the events below, and have a great holiday!


Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director


PS – Not too late to watch! Visions of Justice Series Concludes with Statewide Program

Visions of Justice, the eight-part video series produced by Illinois Humanities’ Envisioning Justice program, concluded on November 18 with a statewide virtual screening. Illinois Humanities presented the statewide finale in the series, examining the far-reaching impacts of mass incarceration in our local communities. The virtual screening was followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with local contributors.

The Visions of Justice video series foregrounds the perspectives of artists, organizers, scholars, and local residents in the communities of Bloomington-Normal, Carbondale, Chicago, Decatur, East St. Louis, Galesburg, and Urbana-Champaign. “Visions of Justice: Illinois” brought these local perspectives together in one event to highlight the connections among communities both large and small across the state.


Upcoming Opportunities

November 20 – December 22:
Voices and Votes: Democracy in America
Jacksonville Area Museum, Jacksonville, IL

November 20 – December 23:
Illinois Freedom Project
Old School Museum, Winchester, IL

December 2, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CT:
Binding Our State Together: 200 Years of Canals, Railroads, Postal Service, Interurbans, and Roads
Ellwood House Museum, DeKalb, IL

December 9, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. CT:
“Some Said You Were The Spitting Image of Evil”: Virtual Writing Workshop
Zoom Webinar

January 19, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. CT:
Futures, World-Building, and Art: Virtual Workshop
Zoom Webinar


Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration.

Learn more at ilhumanities.org

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