About the Report

From 2020 to 2022, Illinois Humanities served as a critical safety net for humanities organizations in Illinois during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing just under $2.4 million in emergency relief funding to more than 350 nonprofit organizations across the state. Our new report, History is Happening: The State of Humanities Organizations in Illinois During COVID-19 illuminates the challenges these organizations face in mitigating the effects of the pandemic and, critically, the ways they leveraged the power of the humanities for the social and economic well-being of their communities.

This project provides the first-ever attempt to document the ecosystem of humanities and cultural organizations serving Illinois today. View report highlights and download the full report below. Additionally, watch the panel discussion and Q&A that took place during the report release breakfast on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

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Illinois Humanities COVID-19 relief grants were made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the federal CARES Act (2020), ARP Act (2021), with additional support from private foundations and the generosity of individual donors. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this report do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Illinois Humanities Grantee Partner Honey Pot Performance

Report Snapshot

Illinois Humanities awarded $2,352,500 through 490 relief and recovery grants to 359 unique organizations in 78 of our 102 counties and every congressional district.

Image of text: When we consider the ways in which Illinois residents benefit from access to the humanities it becomes increasingly hard to see the humanities as anything less than a necessity.In the most essential way, the grants succeeded in providing urgently needed relief and enabled organizations to “get back to business.” However, relief funding catalyzed an even bigger return on investment in the form of public goods: well-being, social cohesion, bridge building, and civic engagement — essential building blocks of an equitable recovery.

Report findings show:

  • 60% of grantee partners serve communities that were under health and economic duress before the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Nearly a quarter of grantee partners provide programming in a zip code with more COVID cases than the statewide average.
  • Two in three grantee partners operate in areas without sufficient access to broadband internet.

As our state works to rebound from COVID-19, our data shows us that Illinois is positioned to build a thriving cultural ecosystem that can improve livability for all residents, especially for some of the most vulnerable. For a quick synopsis of the findings and background on the report and grant relief funding, read the Executive Summary. Read the full report by downloading it below.

Interactive Map of COVID-19 Relief Grants

Across three years, Illinois Humanities distributed 490 COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Recovery grants to 359 unique organizations. The locations of our grantee partners are displayed in the map below.

Explore the interactive map of 359 nonprofit humanities organizations across Illinois by clicking on pins for organizations’ names, locations, and more.

Go to Interactive Map

Download the Report

COVID-19 Relief Grantees Directory

a group of young artists of varied ages with masks on standing in front of a colorful mural
The mural Home, by artist Sentrock, with collaborating artists from Yollocalli Arts Reach. Photo by Mercedes Zapata, courtesy Chicago Public Art Group in partnership with DCASE.

This new report offers the first-ever attempt to document the ecosystem of humanities and cultural organizations serving Illinois today.

In the provided grantee directory, get to know all 359 of the nonprofit humanities organizations that received relief grants from Illinois Humanities between 2020 and 2022.

In the News

Illinois Humanities’ COVID-19 relief in the news.

Spike in grant funding didn’t keep pace with lost revenue for Illinois cultural groups
St. Louis Public Radio, This American Life
April 27, 2023

Illinois Humanities awards Relief and Recovery Grants to 46 humanities organizations around the state
Sun Times News Online
October 14, 2022

Illinois Humanities announces $1.4M in new COVID-19 Emergency Relief + Recovery Grants
Effingham Daily News
September 16, 2021

IL Humanities promoters praise relief funding
The McDonough County Voice
March 12, 2021


View the 2023 press release and download the press kit here. For inquiries, contact communications@ilhumanities.org.


Lyon, Gabrielle, Mark Hallett, Martin Matusyuki Krause, Jenn Yoo, Joanne Hsu, and Karen Girolami Callam. History is Happening: The State of Humanities Organizations in Illinois during COVID-19. Chicago: Illinois Humanities, 2023. Copyright: April 2023. Illinois Humanities. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for non-commercial reproduction of this report, with attribution to Lyon, et al, Illinois Humanities, 2023.

Past COVID-19 Reports

Public humanities organizations have faced — and created — profound change throughout the pandemic. What did organizations do with relief support? What is the context for their work? What lessons can we learn from these organizations’ responses? Below are earlier COVID-19 reports that examined these questions and more.