Enews March 2022

Illinois Humanities Enews Archive

Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director

Read Time 8 minutes
March 30, 2022

I have a vivid memory of sitting in on an Odyssey class exploring the theme of kinship. The students were discussing Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. A quote from that conversation has stayed with me, echoing in my mind over and over these past few weeks: “All that you touch, You Change. All that you Change, Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change.”

Two years ago in March — like so many others — we had to shut our offices and figure out how to work remotely. Our team gathered online for an emergency meeting during which we established a set of priorities that guided us throughout the pandemic: Find and disperse funds for public humanities organizations that otherwise might not have access to support; focus on strengthening our work with partners and listening to their needs; encourage people to use the humanities as a source of community, solace and reflection during this unimaginable plague.

“All that you touch, You Change. All that you Change, Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change.”

We didn’t cancel a single program. We invented new programs — like Rapid Response. We found new ways to be in community and to support our partners. We lost friends and family. We also found new ones. Our team has been changed by what we have touched these past two years. We continue to change, and I know you do too.

This March we wished Senior Director Chris Guzaitis a bittersweet farewell. A seven-year employee at Illinois Humanities, Chris has been a stalwart champion for youth-, student-, and partner-centered work grounded in racial justice and the humanities throughout the state. Though we’re sad to see her go, we’re excited for the work she will be leading with our colleagues at the Poetry Foundation.

As we say goodbye to Chris, we welcome three new team members: Morven Higgins is our new Director of Development; Madeline Cruz is our Administrative Coordinator; Fairouz AbuGhazaleh joins us as our first Director of Statewide Programs. Each of them brings unique experiences and perspectives, and I look forward to having you get to know them — and their work — in the months ahead.

Every day I have more clarity about the role Illinois Humanities plays — and can play — in leveraging the power of the humanities to make us a stronger, more livable, and more welcoming state. Which brings me to a second quote I hear in my head so frequently these days — this one from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents: “Kindness eases change; love quiets fear.” Being in community through the humanities undoubtedly helps us find kindness, and maybe even the love we need to quiet our fears.

Below we announce the 2022 Public Humanities Awardees, share the newest evolution of Envisioning Justice, and provide key dates for applying to the Odyssey Project and submitting to the Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards.

The programs described below are a testament to the abundance, diversity, and joy we can create together. I hope you’ll join us for at least one of them. (Best of all, thanks to supporters like you, they’re all free!)

Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director


Illinois Humanities has launched Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION, a virtual exhibition and activation kit that uses the arts and humanities to imagine a future without mass incarceration. Designed to generate action, reflection, and community conversation around mass incarceration, the exhibition and activation kit — created in partnership with 14 commissioned artists and humanists including an installation by Pulitzer Prize winner Mitchell S. Jackson — illustrates the impacts of mass incarceration while providing a way for participants to share their visions of justice. Join us for a free, virtual opening reception to RE:ACTION on April 6, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CT on YouTube.

Tour the virtual exhibit and explore the various prompts now at envisioningjustice.org

A new grant opportunity from Illinois Humanities will support organizations and individuals using Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION and the Activation Kit to engage their communities in activities designed to spark conversation, reflection, and action in response to the enduring injustice of mass incarceration. Learn more about RE:ACTION micro-grants and how to make the Activation Kit a part of your practice:


Illinois Humanities was recently awarded a $150,000 grant from the Polk Bros. Foundation to support the next phase of our Envisioning Justice program and share the stories of those impacted by mass incarceration to help Illinoisans envision new possibilities for a more just future.

Initiated in 2017, Envisioning Justice leverages the arts and humanities to envision alternatives to the enduring injustice of mass incarceration. The program catalyzes change through grantmaking, capacity building, and public programming all of which will be enhanced through funding from the Polk Bros. Foundation.

The Polk Bros. Foundation joins a committed group of long-time Envisioning Justice funders including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; and the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge.


Illinois Humanities is proud to announce this year’s Public Humanities Awards honorees: Chicago poet, museum educator, and teaching artist Nicole Bond; Executive Director and Co-Founder of I Am East St. Louis, Lorenzo Savage; and Director of the Western Illinois Museum in Macomb, Sue Scott. Illinois Humanities will present the Beacon Award to the Art for Justice Fund, a national organization disrupting mass incarceration by funding artists and advocates working together to transform our criminal legal system.

The virtual Public Humanities Awards will take place on May 19, from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. CT. Registration is free and open to the public, though donations are highly encouraged.

Learn more at https://www.ilhumanities.org/events/public-humanities-award-2022/


Illinois proudly celebrates Women’s History Month and the remarkable achievements of women throughout our history and paving the way for our future. The history of the humanities does not exist without the artists and humanists who have identified, shared, and in many ways redefined what womanhood, gender, and identity mean in an ever-changing and ever-challenging world. We encourage you to explore our archives to celebrate alongside us the thoughtful achievements of women within and outside of our organization and who lead many of the organizations we are proud to call our grantee partners.

For a thorough examination of how past, present, and future inform one another through intersecting identities, check out our recent virtual event featuring author Ytasha Womack in conversation with John Jennings. Ytasha talks to John about Afrofuturism, its relationship to Chicago, and its influence on prolific authors such as the great Octavia Butler and her work, Kindred.


NEA Big Read: El reino de este mundo: la poesía como narración (en español)
April 2, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CT

RE:ACTION: An Introduction
April 6, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. CT
YouTube Livestream

Black Hawk’s View of Illinois History
April 7, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. CT
Marshall Public Library, Marshall, IL 62441

Mr. U.S. Grant: A Man and a Patriot!
April 8, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. CT
Groff Memorial Public Library, Grayville, IL 62844

From Obscurity to Greatness: Illinois and Lincoln, 1830 to 1861
April 9, 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. CT
Reddick Public Library District, Ottawa, IL 61350

Family Heirloom Recipes from the Illinois State Fair
April 9, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. CT
Mascoutah Heritage Museum, Mascoutah, IL 62258

Illinois Creoles, French Canadians, and Louisiana Cajuns: A Continental Story
April 14, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. CT

Down in the Mine: American Coal Miners and Their Songs, 1890 – 1960
April 18, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. CT
Moline Public Library, Moline, IL 61265

Not Quite: Asian Americans and the “Other” in the Era of the Pandemic and the Uprising
April 18, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. CT
Indian Trails Public Library District, Wheeling, IL 60090

Family Heirloom Recipes from the Illinois State Fair
April 18, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. CT
St. Paul United Church of Christ, Fowler, IL 62338

Journeying Through the American Indian Way of Life
April 21, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. CT
Marion Carnegie Library, Marion, IL 62959

Ann Bradford Stokes: African American Civil War Nurse
April 23, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. CT
Mound City National Cemetery Preservation Commission, Tamms, IL 62988

Did Black Lives Matter in Early Illinois? Voices From the Brink of Slavery and Freedom
April 23, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. CT
Lewis and Clark State Historic Site, Hartford, IL 62048

Down in the Mine: American Coal Miners and Their Songs, 1890 – 1960
April 24, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. CT
Christian County Historical Society and Museum, Taylorville, IL 62568

Journeying Through the American Indian Way of Life
April 28, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. CT
Putnam County Public Library District, Hennepin, IL 61327

Mr. U.S. Grant: A Man and a Patriot!
April 30, 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. CT
Turner Hall, Galena, IL 61036

DEADLINE: Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards Application Deadline
May 6

Public Humanities Awards
May 19, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. CT


Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration.

Learn more at ilhumanities.org