Archived Programs

Illinois Humanities presented

All-Consuming: Conversations on Oil and Water, a year-long, state-wide series that examines the key issues related to access to and control of oil and water using the lens of the humanities.

The Art of Association promoted civic engagement by encouraging groups of leaders to gain a deeper understanding of their role in sustaining American democracy. Through the discussion of historic and contemporary writings, participants can explore questions about their individual and organizational role in the civic life of their communities. The newest Art of Association program at Illinois Humanities is called The Meaning of Service.

Artists, Activists, & Authors After Hours (AAAH) programs were intimate, informal discussions and meals that allow for meaningful exchanges among people who share some connection to the work of a visiting artist. Since coalition building was one of the cornerstones of social change, AAAH programs were structured to give individuals a chance to meet others engaged in similar struggles and projects.

Ask Me Why – 2011: Illinois Humanities has partnered with WBEZ-Chicago to present Ask Me Why, a collection of interviews featuring pairs of individuals who disagree on an issue, taking turns asking each other questions in order to better understand each other and their position.

Bridging Divides drew on the humanities to help local communities address seemingly intractable cultural, civil, and digital divides.

Through Brown v. Board 50 Years Later: Conversations on Integration, Race, and the Courts, Illinois Humanities developed a year of statewide programming that represents a rich fabric of social, political, and artistic responses to the impact of this historic Supreme Court desegregation ruling. The goal of this programming was to bring discussions about integration, education, jurisprudence, and other related topics to the public forum. Programs ran from May 2004-May 2005.

Illinois Humanities launched the Chicago Humanities Festival in 1990 to link the humanities to public issues and to build new and broader audiences for the humanities. What began as a one-day event was now an annual series of more than 150 interdisciplinary programs, held in venues throughout the city, reaching more than 40,000 people. Now an independent nonprofit organization, the CHF was known for featuring world-renowned, as well as newly emerging, authors, scholars, and performing artists. Illinois Humanities was the CHF’s founding and sole producer for seven years and has remained a major funder.

Chicago is a major center of science and technology. Chicago Science Expedition: Two Weeks Worth of “Wow”! was a city-wide presentation of coordinated events and activities that will highlight how science and technology shape the way we live, work, learn and play in Chicago.

Chicago is a major center of science and technology. Chicago Science in the City was the second annual city-wide presentation of coordinated events and activities that will highlight how science and technology shape the way we live, work, learn, and play in Chicago.

An exhilarating series of films, forums, and conversations, Civic Cinema used the most exceptionally creative and engaging documentary films of our times to help communities talk about the most pressing social issues facing us. The documentaries we screen and discuss challenge many of the mainstream representations of critical social issues. Art, in this case, becomes a way of thinking about how history and truth were represented and a way of promoting media literacy.

Choices for the 21st Century was a four-part, scholar-led reading and discussion series held in public libraries throughout the state. The series addressed the question: Who were we as a nation and how do we define our role in a changing world? The program’s goal was to bring citizens together in a non-partisan public space to engage in conversation on contemporary issues. Choices was a program of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

The Collaborative City was a project where Illinois Humanities, in partnership with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), welcomed applications from community groups, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations to host free educational public programs at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Presented in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the five events that comprised Designing the Social Good: From Blueprint to Building examined the way that architecture, in its process and products, can give voice to the broader community.

The Eat, Think, and Be Merry 2009 Benefit Luncheon celebrates 35 years of Illinois Humanities creating space for public dialogue and conversation.

Einstein’s Revolutions was a series of five programs will explore the way different fields understand the same notions, such as time, the relationship between science and the humanities, and the continuing impact of Einstein’s ideas on science and technology. Importantly, this series was aimed less at explaining Einstein’s papers than at mapping out our accumulated knowledge of the universe, from the microscopic to the cosmic.

Folksongs of Illinois is a series of CDs that document the rich and varied history of folk and popular music in Illinois. The first 3 CDs in the series were produced as part of Folksongs of Illinois. The series has grown to include 5 volumes. You can learn more about all 5 volumes at You can purchase all 5 volumes at

The Freedom Riders series honored the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, in partnership with PBS’s American Experience, with documentary screenings, discussions, and original performance pieces.

Future Perfect: Conversations on the Meaning of the Genetics Revolution: There was a scientific revolution taking place that has the potential to change American society in profound ways. Advances in genetics hold much promise for combating disease, feeding more people, and generally improving our quality of life. Yet, these new sciences and technologies draw criticism and evoke fears. In the next decade, major decisions about genetics will be made. The courts, corporations, laboratories, and legislatures will be some of the places where these issues will play out. It was more important than ever that we all understand the issues. Illinois Humanities believes humanistic questions can illuminate these issues.

Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities: From 1994 to 1998 Illinois Humanities brought a major scholar in the humanities, chosen by the Governor, to the Executive Mansion in Springfield to address issues in the state’s history and civic life. These popular annual lectures were open to the public, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Heartland Chautauqua: In partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council, the Heartland Chautauqua offered rural communities in Illinois and Missouri a week-long series of living-history presentations under a communal tent, combining botheducation and entertainment. Reminiscent of the traveling Chautauqua circuits of the late-19th and early 20th centuries, costumed humanists presented first-person historical figures in public discussions concerning major historical events of their time. Communities can now seek support for this kind of programming through the Community Grants Program.

HYPe (Humanities Youth Projects): Illinois Humanities supported the efforts of young people in developing and producing humanities projects for themselves, their peers, and their communities through partnerships with youth-serving organizations. Youth determined what subjects interested them and worked with Illinois Humanities and their host organizations to develop a curriculum. With the support of humanist scholars and artists, HYPe participants have done research projects on the changing demographics in their neighborhoods, the history of Chicago along the Green Line “el,” and the impact of gentrification on low-income communities.

Know More: Conversations that Matter: Art, issues, and dialogue–these were the key components to The Public Square’s programs in the Englewood and Humboldt Park neighborhoods. This series was a way to bridge the gap between the arts and social issues that were of current concerns with the community. Performances and presentations were a prelude to community-based discussions that engage everyone involved. Top artists and activists were part of the overall series.

Illinois Humanities was selected to receive a ‘Latino Americans: 500 Years of History‘ grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA). With this support, we hosted a six-part series of programs across the state that celebrated the vibrant history and future of Latino Americans in Illinois. This series was kicked off with “Rodrigo Lara: A Conversation about Repatriation.”

Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare was a discussion-based program that brings hospital staff together monthly to reflect on the larger mission of medicine through facilitated conversations about literature.

Living In Color was our series of storytelling events at some of our favorite spots in Chicago, with special guests sharing funny, poignant, and adventurous tales on food, radical love, identity, and migration.

Looking@Democracy was a challenge offering a total of $100,000 in prize money for short, provocative media submissions about how we can all come together to strengthen American democracy.

The Meaning of Service (MoS) was a national reading and discussion program for service volunteers featuring discussions that use short philosophical and literary texts on the nature of justice, service, and related themes.

PRIME TIME Family Reading Time® was a six-week program designed to bring underserved, low-income families into public libraries to participate in a unique, humanities-focused, storytelling experience.

The Public Square fostered debate, dialogue, and exchange of ideas on cultural, social, and political issues with an emphasis on social justice.

Shop Talk was a monthly discussion series that brings UIC scholars to Ron’s Barber Shop on Chicago’s west side to grapple with hard issues ranging from gender violence and immigration to criminal justice and access to health care.

Standing Together: A Veterans Book Group was a program of Illinois Humanities that uses the arts and humanities, specifically literature and discussion, to offer an informal setting for veterans to connect with one another, share their experiences, and strengthen their sense of community.

True Learning, True Teaching Seminars: Illinois Humanities offered K-12 educators (teachers, librarians, counselors) free, humanities-based seminars led by respected scholars in retreat-like settings. The seminars were ISBE-approved.

The (Un)Common Good series was part of  Practicing Democracy, a national partnership with the Boeing Company, the Maryland Humanities Council and Humanities Washington. With this series, Illinois Humanities hoped to take the “dis” out of disagreement.

Velosophie was a reading-discussion program that combines physical, outdoor excursions in natural settings with evening reading and reflection.

Voices: A Collection of Illinois Stories was an annual radio series that showcases a wide variety of programs created or funded by the Illinois Humanities. The series was produced by 98.7WFMT, Chicago’s Classical Experience.