Breakfast and Report Release: History is Happening

the State of Humanities Organizations in Illinois During Covid-19

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Apr 27, 2023


Impact House
200 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60606


Open to the public

COVID-19 put an unprecedented strain on the residents of Illinois. In response, Illinois Humanities awarded nearly $2.4m in grants to 359 organizations across the state, reaching 78 of our 102 counties and, in the process, revealing a robust cultural ecosystem. We gathered information from these organizations (our grantee partners) and put the findings into a report.

Join Illinois Humanities at Impact House on April 27th as we release these findings in our new COVID-19 report: “History Is Happening: The State of Humanities Organizations in Illinois During COVID-19.” We will illuminate surprising findings, including that our grantee partners who received emergency relief funding were already working to mitigate social, health, and economic stresses prevalent prior to the pandemic.

We invite you to be part of this FREE, in-person breakfast conversation, co-hosted by Forefront, about how humanities organizations’ responses to the pandemic can equip Illinois to forge an equitable recovery and a more livable state for all.

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Left to right: Kaoru Watanabe (National Cambodian Heritage Museum, Granteee Partner), panelist Mónica Félix (Executive Director, Chicago Cultural Alliance), panelist Irene Romulo (Co-Founder; Development and Community Engagement Coordinator, Cicero Independiente), O. Victoria “Vickie” Lakes-Battle (Executive Director for the Chicago Metro Region, IFF), Brian Failing (Aurora Regional Fire Museum, Grantee Partner), and Gabrielle Lyon (Executive Director, Illinois Humanities)

Program Details
  • Welcome and Opening
  • Findings Overview
  • Panel Discussion
  • Q & A
  • Closing Remarks

John Bracken (moderator) is the executive director of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Previously John worked for nearly two decades as a philanthropic investor in digital media, media policy, and innovation. He most recently served as vice president for technology innovation at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where he oversaw the Knight News Challenge, Knight’s Prototype Fund, and other efforts to improve the creation, curation, and accessibility of information.

John previously managed technology and civic innovation programs at the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. He has a master’s degree from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from Pitzer College. He serves on the board of the Illinois Humanities Council.

Irene Romulo has been organizing to end deportations and the criminalization of people of color in Chicago for the past 11 years. Most recently, Irene has turned to journalism as a way to elevate local organizing, shed light on injustice and build power in her community.

Irene is an award-winning journalist and co-founder of Cicero Independiente, the only bilingual, independent news organization serving the people of Cicero and Berwyn, IL. She’s a past Ida. B Wells Investigative Reporting Fellow and was named a Leader for a New Chicago in 2022.

O. Victoria “Vickie” Lakes-Battle has been at the forefront of commercial and mission-based lending for over 30 years and has developed a recipe for equitably serving communities: time + proximity + authentic partnerships. On a mission to invest, redevelop and empower low-income communities to activate their visions, Vickie became IFF’s first-ever Executive Director for the Chicago Metro region. She oversees IFF’s full-range of services including lending, real estate consulting, and the community strategies program where she is adept at targeting and cultivating opportunities that support IFF goals and objectives. In this role, Vickie understands the necessity of cooperative engagement and active partnerships that expand the resources available to serve low- and moderate-income individuals and communities. She is a trusted thought partner to community-based organizations, the broader community development sector, and philanthropy.

Vickie’s ability to innovate at every turn–economically, socially, and organizationally–has been recognized throughout the Chicagoland area and nationally. Vickie challenges others to look at community development finance through an equity lens and is willing to ask and wrestle with the tough questions. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Public Health Institute, Arts Alliance Illinois, Cook County Land Bank Authority, AMPT: Advancing Nonprofits and is on the Steering Committees of Elevated Chicago and We Rise Together. Vickie’s track record positions her as a success benchmark for leaders in the commercial and mission lending and equitable community development space.

Mónica Félix has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago with specializations in German and Russian literature and a B.A. in German and Linguistics from Lawrence University. She began her career in public humanities with her role as the Museum Director of the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center in Chicago. To support new programming for diverse audiences, she formed partnerships with fellow Alliance organizations to plan an International Game Night, secured funding for genealogy resources, and greatly expanded the museum internship program to draw students from across Chicagoland.

Mónica’s nonprofit leadership experience continued when she stepped into the role of Chief Administrative Officer of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), the principal learned society in the United States for scholars whose work involves several literatures and cultures. As the ACLA’s first CAO, she oversaw multi-year planning of the organization’s 3,000-attendee annual meeting, implemented strategic planning, founded a development committee, established a new digital infrastructure, and overhauled the membership management structure.

With the Alliance’s dedicated Board of Directors and staff, she is helping to bring about the next generation of professional development programs, knowledge exchanges between centers, and impactful programming.

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