2021 Envisioning Justice Grants Program

Illinois Humanities is no longer accepting applications for our 2021 Envisioning Justice grants program. However, Illinois Humanities hopes to provide continued Envisioning Justice funding opportunities in 2022.


In 2017, Illinois Humanities launched Envisioning Justice in Chicago to amplify the voices of people most adversely affected by mass incarceration in a citywide conversation on criminal legal issues through arts and humanities programming. The underlying assumption behind Envisioning Justice is that the arts, humanities, and civic dialogue in concert play a pivotal role in helping us re-examine issues, policies, and practices in fresh ways, while also enabling us to create strategies and pathways to a just and equitable society.

In 2020, Illinois Humanities expanded Envisioning Justice throughout Illinois and commissioned 14 artists and humanists to create new work that responds to and grapples with mass incarceration in impacted communities. These projects will be completed by 2022 and will coincide with the development of an interactive digital platform that people throughout the state can use to spark conversation, exploration, and action within their own communities. You can view the current Envisioning Justice Commissioned Artist & Humanist cohort here.

Illinois Humanities also issued nearly $200,000 in grants for projects across the state of Illinois meant to challenge common conceptions of mass incarceration and to imagine and work towards a just society. You can view a full list of the 2020 Envisioning Justice grantee partners here. You can also read more about the 2020 grants categories here.

Program Description:

Grantmaking continues to be a critical component of Envisioning Justice. Through the Envisioning Justice grants program, Illinois Humanities plans to partner with groups throughout the state to use the arts and humanities to spark statewide conversations about the impact of mass incarceration as well as to envision a truly just society.

In 2021, Envisioning Justice grants are meant to a) continue to support work at the local, grassroots level in the arts, humanities, and related areas, as well as by other groups that harness the arts and humanities to explore fresh ideas; and b) to foster partnerships amongst groups doing work in these areas, based on the notion that we are more powerful complementing one another’s strengths and working in unison.

The 2021 grant opportunities are open to the entire state of Illinois, with money specifically dedicated to both organizations in Cook County and organizations located outside of Cook County. Illinois Humanities is committed to equity in how funds are dispersed across the state, and geographic diversity will be a priority in our selection process.

Note: Illinois Humanities is offering interviews for applicants this cycle of Envisioning Justice grants. However, all of the interview slots have been filled.

If you are interested in learning more about the grant opportunities below, the type of work that will be funded, feedback on proposal ideas, or would like support in completing an application, reach out to Tyreece Williams, Program Manager, Envisioning Justice, at tyreece.williams@ilhumanities.org.

Please sign-up for the Envisioning Justice Digest and the Illinois Humanities newsletter to get the latest updates about Envisioning Justice and our other programs and grant opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

2020 Envisioning Justice Grants

In 2020, Illinois Humanities awarded $190,000 in grants to 26 organizations and individuals to support projects across Illinois that respond to the impacts of mass incarceration and collectively envision a society that is restorative, healing, and just for all. The categories and awardees from the 2020 Envisioning Justice grant cycles are listed below.

Envisioning Justice Action Grants

Envisioning Justice Action Grants, funded by the Art for Justice Fund, were awarded to 13 Illinois-based projects responding to mass incarceration and amplifying new visions of justice from communities impacted by our criminal legal system. Of the 13 grants being announced, 11 are in Cook County, one is in Will County, and one is in Champaign County. Seven Action Grants will go to organizations and six to individuals.

Envisioning Justice Place-Based

Envisioning Justice Place-Based Grants, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were awarded to 12 additional projects outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. These projects explore the impacts of mass incarceration in six communities that were selected for being geographically representative, housing a prison or jail, and/or having experienced demographic shifts as a result of the proximity of this institution. These communities include the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area, Carbondale, Decatur, East St. Louis, Galesburg, and Urbana-Champaign.

Envisioning Justice Dialogues Microgrants

Two groups also received funding to host small group “Justice Dialogues:”