Illinois Humanities Grants to Provide Critical Support for 14 Organizations Around the State

For Immediate Release: February 7, 2023

Press Releases
Sarah Sommers

Read Time 4 minutes
February 7, 2023

Contact: Sarah Sommers at | 773-251-4772

General operating grants are a step forward in Illinois Humanities’ commitment to equitable grantmaking.


Illinois Humanities announces that 14 Illinois organizations will receive General Operating Grants, the organization’s newest funding opportunity for humanities work statewide. Illinois Humanities’ General Operating Grants provide unrestricted funding, meaning organizations can allocate support wherever they need it most rather than being limited to utilizing the funds for a specific project or program. For organizations of varying development, size, and staffing, flexibility is critical – and far more impactful.

“General operating grants are intended to enable organizations to focus on advancing their missions, rather than delivering on a specific project,” said Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Illinois Humanities.

General Operating Grants are part of Illinois Humanities’ focus on equity and increased sustainability for humanities organizations throughout Illinois.

“Time and again we heard from our grantee partners that general operating support would change the way they utilize funding in a very impactful way,” said Mark Hallett, director of grants programs. “It was clear this should be the next step in Illinois Humanities’ grantmaking work.”

The 14 recipients of General Operating Grants represent a spectrum of humanities organizations around the state. The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston is a longtime grantee partner which previously received project-based and COVID-19 relief funding before Illinois Humanities introduced its general operating grants.

“We are extremely appreciative of unrestricted funding,” said Kim Vigue, executive director of the Mitchell Museum. “Unrestricted funds help us to cover some of the less appealing expenses such as payroll, administrative costs, and utilities.”

The museum has big plans for 2023: A new exhibit, “No Rest: The Epidemic of Stolen Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2Spirits,” that opened this January; the launch of a food sovereignty initiative; an expansion of its Indigenous Medicine Garden; and more. With a General Operating Grant from Illinois Humanities, the Museum can utilize the funds however will make the most impact toward their mission.

“This grant will allow us to continue our collaborations that increase the visibility of Native peoples and elevate Native voices through educational public programming,” said Vigue.

The REAL Youth Initiative has had a long-standing relationship with Illinois Humanities’ programs. Co-founder and co-director Denzel Burke is a Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Award winner and frequent collaborator with the Envisioning Justice program. The REAL Youth Initiative provides fellowships, educational programs, and peer network opportunities for young people incarcerated in Illinois.

Since its founding, REAL received project-based support through Envisioning Justice grants. Unrestricted funding through a general operating grant came at a critical time. The REAL Youth Initiative has faced unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, with programs frequently interrupted by lockdowns.

“Prisons go on lockdowns for weeks,” said Burke. “This not only disrupts our ability to remain in contact with young people, but also further traumatizes young people in our program and affects their physical and mental well-being.”

An unrestricted grant will enable REAL to allocate funding between their various initiatives and programs at Illinois Youth Centers in Chicago, St. Charles, and Warrenville, such as the Renaldo Hudson Reentry Fellowship and the REAL Talk Revolutionary Education Series.

Find the full list of grantee partners below.

  • Pana Historical Society ($5,000) – Pana, Illinois
  • Cicero Independiente ($5,000) – Cicero, Illinois
  • Contratiempo ($5,000) – Chicago, Illinois
  • Liberation Journeys ($5,000) – Blue Island, Illinois
  • Mitchell Museum of the American Indian ($5,000) – Evanston, Illinois
  • National Cambodian Heritage Museum & Killing Fields Memorial ($5,000) – Chicago, Illinois
  • Strategy for Access Foundation ($5,000) – Chicago, Illinois
  • REAL Youth Initiative (Fiscal sponsor: Youth Network Council; $5,000) – Chicago, Illinois
  • Royalton Public Library District ($5,000) – Royalton, Illinois
  • Lawrence County Illinois Historical Society ($5,000) – Lawrenceville, Illinois
  • Western Illinois Museum ($5,000) – Macomb, Illinois
  • Oregon Public Library District ($5,000) – Oregon, Illinois
  • Abe Lincoln Project ($5,000) – Pittsfield, Illinois
  • Les Amis du Fort de Chartres ($5,000) – Prairie du Rocher, Illinois

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. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.