For Arts & Humanities Month we’re looking back at some of the amazing work of our partners and grantees who utilize the humanities every day to foster creativity, build connections, and strengthen communities across Illinois. Learn more about Arts & Humanities month here and visit our events page to attend a program and experience their impact for yourself.
“The art and humanities are essential to sharing stories.”
Envisioning Justice grantee Joseph Dole is an award-winning artist, writer, journalist, jailhouse lawyer, and advocate. Incarcerated since 1998, Joe, who continues to fight his conviction pro se, works to create a just criminal legal system. His Illinois Humanities funded project, Illustrating a Better Way, uses creative and visually engaging mediums to make academic studies on policing and criminal justice reform vivid and relatable to the general public. He sees the power of the arts and humanities to create community and build empathy across an increasingly segregated society:
“The art and humanities are essential to sharing stories of people between various groups, which helps to knit together communities by bringing understanding about other people’s struggles and needs. It is much easier to demonize someone else and not care about their well-being if you are ignorant to their human struggles. The humanities and arts help us to imagine being in other people’s shoes and not to make knee-jerk judgments. They make us more humane.”
“An integral part of every aspect of our lives.”
Kim Vigue is the executive director of the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois, an Illinois Humanities grantee. Founded in 1977, the Mitchell Museum’s mission is to promote and share a deeper understanding of Indigenous people’s histories, cultures, traditions, and contributions, both past and present. While the Chicagoland area has one of the country’s largest Native populations and was the ancestral home to dozens of tribes, because of the displacement and lack of reservation lands, Native populations are often invisible. The Museum makes space for Native communities and individuals to connect and share their authentic stories.
“For Native people and communities, the arts have always been an integral part of every aspect of our lives and interwoven in our culture, spirituality, language, and traditional practices, including everything from music and dance to how we interact with our environment…Not only is the renewal of culturally based arts and humanities among Native people healing for many from generations of oppression and trauma, but it also supports the intergenerational exchange and continuation of our cultures.”
“Not just surviving, but thriving.”
Rachel Lappin is the executive director of the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois, which works to nurture and promote the practice and appreciation of the arts through education, exhibits, cultural programs, and community outreach initiatives. In 2021, the Center received a grant from Illinois Humanities to partner with other local cultural, community, and economic development entities to expand upon and engage the public with the “Untold Black Stories” project conducted by AllTown USA and StoryCorps. Rachel sees the role of the humanities in keeping communities vital and economically resilient.
“To me, the humanities, culture, and the arts are about humans not just surviving, but thriving and cultivating resilience. The arts and creativity are vital in shaping our community’s future and economic viability. The arts strengthen our social ties, values, identity, and creativity – which all increase economic and emotional investment in our community so that we can all thrive. The arts make all of our lives better, our neighborhoods richer and our community stronger.”
Visit our blog to read more stories of the humanities in action.
Illinois Humanities works to strengthen the social, political, and economic fabric of Illinois through constructive conversation and community engagement. When you support our programs as a participant, donor, or audience member, you help us to provide sustained funding and support to grantee partners like the ones shared in this story. Consider attending an event or making a gift today.