About the Grantee Spotlight
Our “Grantee Spotlight” is a monthly feature where Illinois Humanities highlights the work of Community Grants program partners. It consists of a brief description of the organization, the project that Illinois Humanities is funding, and a representative of the group’s responses to prompts. View the list of grantee organizations in the Spotlight below.
*Received an Envisioning Justice grant.
In the Spotlight
Liberation Journeys - March 2023
When asked, “How do you see the arts/culture/humanities as being essential?,” Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong replied, “Exposure to the humanities is central to identity development, especially for young people. When I was a high school teacher, the classes I loved designing and teaching the most examined the intersections of history, culture, and art. My students’ aha moments, complex connections to the real-world, and insight about themselves and their communities were most potent in these learning spaces.”
Learn more about Aiyeshia, the work of this local organization, and how it came to be via this Q&A with Aiyeshia Hudson-Wong, executive director, Liberation Journeys.
Cicero Independiente - February 2023
As the only bilingual, independent journalism organization serving the majority immigrant communities of Cicero and Berwyn, Cicero Independiente is writing their community into history by building an organization that supports the entire well-being. Cicero Independiente helps make space for radical politics in the suburbs by uplifting solutions proposed by people who are purposefully silenced in their community.
Learn more about the work of this local organization and how it came to be via this Q&A with Cicero Independiente’s development and community engagement coordinator, Irene Romulo, and steering committee member, Jesus J. Montero.
Landmarks Illinois - January 2023
Founded in 1971, Landmarks Illinois’ mission is to preserve, protect, and promote architectural and historic resources in Illinois through advocacy and education.
“The humanities are essential as they engage the full human experience. They provide a forum for people to explore both our shared experiences and what makes us unique.” –Frank Butterfield, Landmarks Illinois’ COO
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Landmarks Illinois and Q&A with its chief operating officer, Frank Butterfield
Strategy for Access Foundation NFP - November 2022
Founded in 2019, the Strategy for Access Foundation creates docu-series that address issues related to disability justice. Its mission is to “create an understanding that people with disabilities contribute to the global community in numerous ways” and are “assets to our society.” Strategy for Access Foundation’s brand is under Fun4theDisabled.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Strategy for Access Foundation NFP
Red Line Service - October 2022
Founded in 2014 as an initiative to provide overnight dinners on either end of the CTA Red Line, Red Line Service has since developed into a full-fledged organization whose mission is to “use the arts to destigmatize houselessness, decrease social isolation, develop social cohesion, and provide channels for artistic talent to be recognized.”
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Red Line Service
Lucky Jefferson - September 2022
Founded in 2018, Lucky Jefferson is a print and digital publisher reimagining books by creating interactive and collaborative experiences that center the writer and artist and cultivate inclusion and representation in contemporary literature.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Lucky Jefferson
Leanne Trapedo Sims* - September 2022
In this spotlight, Leanne Trapedo Sims discusses her “Issues of Mass Incarceration” project and what brought her to this work. She addresses the question: “What a just future looks like, and how the humanities help to bring that future into focus?“.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight featuring Leanne Trapedo Sims
Legacy Training Inc.* - September 2022
In this spotlight, members of the Legacy Training, Inc. organization discuss their work, what inspires them to do what they do, and how they are bringing about change. They tackle the question: “What a just future looks like, and how the humanities help to bring that future into focus?“.
HotHouse - August 2022
Founded in 1987, HotHouse was formed to provide sustainable environments for innovative artistic exploration and a wide range of progressive discourse. HotHouse achieves its mission by: instigating and facilitating participatory multi-disciplinary events that create opportunities for high caliber artistic practices; that extend our collective resources into underserved communities and foster the international exchange of ideas and methods within the context of progressive social change praxis.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the HotHouse
Chicago Cultural Alliance (CCA) - July 2022
The Chicago Cultural Alliance’s mission is to connect, promote, and support centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive Chicago. Its vision is a city where all communities have a voice, and cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration are an integral part of Chicago’s civic fabric. The CCA was founded in 2008.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the Chicago Cultural Alliance
Joseph Dole* - July 2022
is an artist, writer, journalist, jailhouse lawyer, and government watchdog. Joe has written numerous articles, essays, poems, and research papers. Two of his policy proposals were catalysts for Illinois legislation. In this Illinois Humanities Spotlight, Joseph shares details on his project “Illustrating a Better Way: Art & Animation on the Failure of Deterrence and Need for Community Approaches to Public Safety” and what inspires him and his work.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Joseph Dole
Architreasures - June 2022
Founded in 1998, Architreasures activates communities through the power of arts and design. Since it’s founding, Architeasures’ work has produced 150+ projects across 35 Chicago neighborhoods, resulting in tangible, physical improvements in some of our most under-served communities, while promoting civic engagement and social connections among project participants.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Architreasures
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian - May 2022
Founded in 1977, the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian’s mission is to promote and share a deeper understanding of Indigenous people’s histories, cultures, traditions, and contributions, both past and present.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
Watershed Cairns - April 2022
The collaboration between Reuter and Rowan is intended to underscore the distinctiveness of the riverine ecosystems and their environmental and cultural significance. This grant is being managed by Alton Forward, a not-for-profit collaboration of AltonWorks; its focus is to inspire stakeholders to become champions, ambassadors, leaders, volunteers, investors, partners, and active around the future of Alton.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Watershed Cairns
The HUB Arts & Cultural Center - March 2022
Founded in 2015, The HUB seeks to offer artistic and cultural activities relevant to the people of Schuyler and surrounding counties. It’s mission is to create and maintain a connection between the arts, rural culture, and their local communities through exhibitions and educational experiences.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on The HUB Arts & Cultural Center
Not In Our Town - February 2022
Not In Our Town is a coalition of partners that aims to build deeper understanding of sociological and historical issues, and use the arts to communicate human situations. Partners include the NAACP, Prairie Pride Coalition, Connexion Latina, McLean County Museum of History, Moms Demand Action, and multiple religious congregations, local media, and city government.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Not In Our Town
Elgin Bokari-Smith* - February 2022
Elgin Bokari-Smith is an artist, social activist, and educator who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. In this Illinois Humanities Spotlight, Elgin shares his vision of a just future and discusses his program Stomping Grounds Literary Arts Initiative (SGLAI).
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Elgin Bokari-Smith
Jacoby Arts Center - January 2022
Founded in 2004, the Jacoby Arts Center is committed to nurturing and promoting the practice and appreciation of the arts through education, exhibits, cultural programs, and community outreach initiatives.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the Jacoby Arts Center
Lawndale Pop-Up Spot - November 2021
Founded in 2016, the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot is an innovative initiative that connects history, culture, and nature and highlights the great efforts taking place in North Lawndale.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot
Keyria Rodgers* - November 2021
Keyria Rodgers is the director of criminal justice at Millikin University. She has worked in government and serves as the program director of the Teen Justice Program. In this Illinois Humanities Spotlight, Keyria shares her vision of a just future and details the need and goals of the Global Restorative Justice Partnership.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Keyria Rodgers
Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF) - October 2021
Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF) is Chicago’s premier film festival for the Black LGBTQ community. BAFF’s mission is to promote social equity awareness and education in all aspects of life for the Black LGBT+ community through the use of media and the creative arts.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF)
Heather Canuel* - October 2021
Heather Canuel is a carceral justice activist whose work is linked to and fueled by her experiences with incarceration. An organizer for the Women’s Justice Institute, Heather provides hairstyling services to currently and formerly incarcerated people alongside her own work in the arts and humanities. In this Illinois Humanities Spotlight, Heather shares her vision of a just future and how emotional expression through the arts and humanities can serve as a form of therapy for children of incarcerated parents.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Heather Canuel
History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff - September 2021
The History Center’s mission connects people and inspires curiosity by exhibiting, preserving, sharing and celebrating history. The History Center showcases the history of community development, including socioeconomic change, ethnographic and demographic drift, and suburbanization. Both the museum and the archives are free, with extensive use by people locally, regionally, and nationally. Their broad online collection provides rich access to thousands of items to the public.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff
MAKE Literary Productions - August 2021
Founded in 2004, MAKE Literary Productions, NFP, supports, promotes, and engages contemporary Chicago writers and artists through multidisciplinary arts events and international cultural exchange.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on MAKE Literary Productions
Asif Wilson* - July 2021
Educator and activist Asif Wilson is leading an Illinois Humanities-funded project through an Envisioning Justice grant exploring the experiences of formerly incarcerated college students currently enrolled in a Chicago community college through Participatory Action (PAR) research. Some 10-15 students will research a topic related to education and incarceration and lead events to share their findings and recommendations.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Asif Wilson
The Chicago Poetry Center - June 2021
The Chicago Poetry Center is creating a free, digital curriculum for teachers across Illinois to use in their classrooms. It harnesses the Poetry Center’s extensive online archive, a dynamic, interactive repository of diverse poetic voices, and provides teachers with carefully built lesson plans that meet middle and high school Illinois learning standards. All three educators featured here (Beth, Timothy, and Yadeale) were co-writers of the curriculum.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on The Chicago Poetry Center
Peoria Riverfront Museum - May 2021
The Peoria Riverfront Museum (PRM), which opened on October 20, 2012, is the largest private museum in downstate Illinois, and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The Museum has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1973. The mission of the Peoria Riverfront Museum is “To inspire lifelong learning for ALL: connecting art, history, science and achievement through collections, exhibitions and programs.”
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the Peoria Riverfront Museum
Illinois Prison Project - April 2021
Founded in 2019, the Illinois Prison Project (IPP) works for a more sensible and humane prison system in Illinois by advocating for and on behalf of thousands of people who are needlessly incarcerated.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on the Illinois Prison Project
About Face Theater - February 2021
Founded in 1995 with the belief that LGBTQ+ lives could provide the lens through which universal human experiences were explored, About Face Theatre (AFT) exists to create exceptional, innovative, and adventurous theatre and educational programming that advances the national dialogue on sexual and gender identity, and challenges and entertains audiences in Chicago and beyond.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on About Face Theater
Farwell House - January 2021
Farwell House, founded in 2016, is an arts organization that hosts exhibitions, workshops, and cultural events, as well as artist residencies. It is located in a house built in 1867 by an agricultural merchant in Frederick, an unincorporated community of fewer than 200 residents near the Illinois River in western Illinois’s Schuyler County.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Farwell House
Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19) - November 2020
About Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19)
The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19) exists to commemorate the worst incident of racial violence in the city’s history. Formally launched on the 100th anniversary of the 1919 riot, we believe that now is the moment for Chicago to confront its bloodiest chapter and heal the wounds that time alone has not.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project
Guild Literary Complex - Chicago - October 2020
About Guild Literary Complex
Founded in 1989, Guild Literary Complex (the Guild) is a grassroots literary arts organization creating performance-based events in and around Chicago. It partners and collaborates with other community groups on social and restorative justice issues, providing arts and advocacy programming for marginalized voices. Guild programs offer opportunities for a range of voices throughout Chicago to be heard, engaging people from all neighborhoods and all backgrounds.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Guild Literary Complex and Andrea Change, executive director.
League of Women Voters Naperville - Naperville - October 2020
About League of Women Voters Naperville
Founded in 1956, the League of Women Voters Naperville (the League) encourages informed and active participation in local government through education and advocacy. It is one of more than 800 state and local leagues under the umbrella of the National League, which dates back to 1920.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on League of Women Voters Naperville and Becky Simon, president.
Brushwood Center - Chicago - September 2020
About Brushwood Center
Founded in 1984, Brushwood Center promotes the importance of nature for nurturing personal and community wellbeing, cultivating creativity, and inspiring learning. It is designated an Illinois Nature Preserve and is located in 565 acres of woodlands in the heart of Lake County. Brushwood offers programming in the arts, humanities, and wellbeing for people of all income levels, ages, and backgrounds.
Read the full Illinois Humanities Grantee Spotlight on Brushwood Center and Catherine Game, executive director.
Restore Justice - Chicago - September 2020
About Restore Justice
Founded in 2015 by criminal justice reform advocates, those formerly incarcerated, and others, Restore Justice believes every human being deserves dignity, including those who have committed serious crimes. Restore Justice works toward a day when the criminal legal system in Illinois treats every case as an opportunity to heal individuals and communities. We advocate for fairness, humanity, and compassion throughout the system, with a primary focus on those affected by extreme sentences imposed in their youth.
Read the full Illinois Humanities grantee spotlight on Jobi Cates, Wendell Robinson, and Restore Justice.
Fifth House Ensemble - Chicago - August 2020
About Fifth House Ensemble
Founded in 2005, Fifth House Ensemble (5HE) taps the collaborative spirit of chamber music to create engaging performances and interactive educational programs, forging meaningful partnerships with unexpected venues, artists of other disciplines, educational institutions, and audiences of every type.
Read the full Illinois Humanities grantee spotlight on Melissa Ngan and 5th House.
Chicago Latino Theater Alliance - Chicago - August 2020
About Chicago Latino Theater Alliance
Founded in 2016 through a new collaboration between the National Museum of Mexican Art, the International Latino Cultural Center, and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, CLATA aims to produce the country’s leading Latino theater festival (“Destinos”), to provide organizational and financial support for Chicago’s Latino theater groups, and to build a permanent home for Chicago’s Latino theater companies to thrive and grow.
Read the full Illinois Humanities grantee spotlight on the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance.
Junior Docent Camp - Murphysboro - July 2020
About Junior Docent Camp
The General John A. Logan Museum plans to hold a week-long day camp in July for students entering eighth through twelfth grades who are interested in becoming junior docents at the museum. It will include opportunities to learn about site interpretation, historical and archaeological research, artisanal skills such as spinning and weaving, and nineteenth-century games. The camp is intended to develop a pool of young volunteers who can conduct activities at the museum. It also aims to teach them knowledge and skills that they can apply in other contexts within the community and beyond.
Learn more about the project and upcoming events, including a Q&A session with the Museum’s Board Member and Education Programs Coordinator, Betsy Brown.
Teamwork Englewood - Chicago - July 2020
About Teamwork Englewood
Teamwork Englewood is the fiscal agent for the Folded Map project. Founded in 2003, Teamwork Englewood seeks to unite the many organizations serving Englewood residents and work toward the common goal of building a stronger community.
Learn more about the project and upcoming events, including a Q&A session with CCT’s Artistic Director, Jacqueline Russell.
Chicago Children’s Theatre (CCT) - Chicago - June 2020
About Chicago Children’s Theatre (CCT)
The Chicago Children’s Theatre (CCT) was founded in 2005 with the notion that a great theater city needs a great children’s theater. Nearly 15 years later, it has produced 20 world premieres, mostly from award-winning literary works. CCT has received six NEA Art Works grants, and in 2017 became the first theater for young audiences in the U.S. to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards. CCT also continues to grow its education programs, offering classes, workshops, winter and spring break camps, and summer camps for children up to age 13.
Learn more about the project and upcoming events, including a Q&A session with CCT’s Artistic Director, Jacqueline Russell.
Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society (BHS) - Chicago - May 2020
About Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society (BHS)
Founded in 1999, the Bronzeville / Black Chicagoan Historical Society (BHS) was started by a small group of enthusiastic family history researchers. BHS began due to an overwhelming concern for the diminishing historical sites in African American communities and continues to raise public awareness about endangered and unmarked historic sites in Bronzeville. The BHS archives include family documents, oral histories, memorabilia, quilts, objects, film, and photographs. BHS has recorded more than 20 oral histories about the Great Migration from community elders.
Learn more about the project and upcoming events, including a Q&A session with the BHS’s president, Sherry Williams.
OSF HealthCare - Peoria - April 2020
About OSF HealthCare
Founded in 1877, OSF HealthCare’s Mission is “to serve persons with the greatest care and love in a community that celebrates the gift of life.” OSF provides equal access for all individuals.
Learn more about the project and upcoming events, including a Q&A session with OSF HealthCare Foundation’s Grants Program Development Officer, Gina Pribaz Vozenilek.
Coles County Arts Council (CCAC) - Charleston - March 2020
About Coles County Arts Council (CCAC)
Founded in 1984, the Coles County Arts Council is dedicated to fostering, promoting and developing the arts and the historical and cultural heritage of Coles County. CCAC is largely volunteer run, hosts its own events, and helps local groups hold workshops, exhibitions and performances to make art and history come alive in the community. This was CCAC’s fourth grant from Illinois Humanities.
Learn more about the project and upcoming events, including a Q&A session with CCAC’s Arts in the Cemetery/Historical Arts Chairperson, Carolyn J. Stephens.
American Indian Center (AIC) - Chicago - March 2020
About American Indian Center (AIC)
Founded in 1953, the American Indian Center (AIC) was established to provide a gathering space with culture-based programs for Native American families displaced by the Federal Relocation Program of the 1950s. The AIC’s mission is “To promote fellowship among Indian people of all Tribes living in metropolitan Chicago and to create bonds of understanding and communication between Indians and non-Indians in this city. To advance the general welfare of Indian people, to sustain cultural, artistic, and avocational pursuits, and to perpetuate Indian cultural values.” The AIC has received seven grants from Illinois Humanities.
Learn more about the project and upcoming events, including a Q&A session with AIC’s Executive Director, Heather Miller.
For more information on our Community Grants program, visit ilhumanities.org/grants.