Illinois Humanities Awards $230,000 in New Covid-19 State of Illinois Emergency Relief and Recovery Grants

Support from the latest round of relief grants will bolster pandemic recovery at humanities organizations statewide.


Read Time 3 minutes
September 29, 2022

Support from the latest round of relief grants will bolster pandemic recovery at humanities organizations statewide.

Illinois Humanities has awarded a total of $230,000 to 46 humanities-based organizations representing 20 counties across Illinois to support their continued recovery from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants are the third round of emergency relief distributed by Illinois Humanities after awarding $700,000 in 2020 and $1.4 million in 2021 with funding from the State of Illinois, the National Endowment for the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act, and private donations.

“We hope that people will get to know this new cohort of grantee organizations and the important cultural work they do,” said Mark Hallett, Illinois Humanities Director of Grants Programs. “These groups are champions of the humanities – of history, of cultural activity and identity, or lifelong learning – serving diverse communities across the state. We’re proud to support their work.”

The funding provided will ensure that these organizations can continue recuperating losses experienced during the pandemic, revitalizing their programming, and delivering on vital missions.

Grantee Sophia’s Choice, aka Asian Pop-Up Cinema, is a Chicago-based bi-annual festival that aims to “foster an understanding for and appreciation of diverse Asian cultures.”

“We are committed to showing the common humanity experienced by all people regardless of national or cultural background” said Sophia Wong Boccio, executive director. “Fulfilling our mission takes on a greater sense of urgency and purpose during these times.”

Like many groups, Asian Pop-Up Cinema felt the sharp economic impact of the pandemic, including an 80% decrease in ticket revenue. Nonetheless, the group, founded in 2015, boosted its virtual programming while successfully managing live events, grew their national audience, and recently announced a lineup of 36 in-cinema screenings plus 16 short films streaming Oct. 3-9 for U.S. views for their 15th season. With the resources they need, their programming will continue strong.

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Movie-goers pack the house for a film premiere hosted by Asian Pop-Up Cinema. (Image courtesy of Asian Pop-Up Cinema by Sophia’s Choice)

Founded in 2013, the Garvey Tubman Cultural Arts and Research Center (GTCARC) provides services for the African American community in Springfield, Illinois, sharing a viable support system that speaks to the community’s educational, emotional, and cultural needs by providing high-quality, child-friendly, topical programs.

Shatriya Smith, executive director of GTCARC, explains how the group responded to Covid: “As the new executive director, it is my mission to find the funding to continue to provide services that the community needs… With the help of in-kind support from the community, we were able to sustain our space and organize several new programs with very little financial loss.”

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Left: Juneteenth weekend celebrations at Comer Cox park in Springfield, which featured Black businesses and community support programs, music, speakers, and other activities. Right: Garvey Tubman Cultural Arts and Research resident art teacher, John T. Crisp, Jr., and the Mayor of Springfield, Jim Langfelder, at the Illinois State Museum’s Juneteenth Noir exhibit. (Photos by Shatriya Smith)

Building on lessons learned from its first round of emergency relief grants in 2020, shared previously in the expansive report, On Wisdom and Vision: Humanities Organizations in Illinois During COVID-19, Illinois Humanities sought to support organizations diverse in geography, culture, and approach.

The cohort of 46 grantee organizations represents 20 Illinois counties, with 50% based in Cook County and 50% based in 19 other counties across the state. They serve their communities as libraries, cultural hubs, documentarians, museums, educational programs, and historical archives. Together, they paint a picture of an incredible constellation of humanities work enriching our state.


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. Learn more at and on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.