Press Release $1.4 Million in New Covid-19 Emergency Relief + Recovery Grants Announced by Illinois Humanities

For Immediate Release: September 16, 2021 Contact: | 773.251.4772

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Illinois Humanities

Read Time 4 minutes
August 1, 2021

Will support humanities organizations, projects, statewide

CHICAGO, September 16, 2021 – At a time when the impacts of COVID-19 continue to devastate communities around the state, Illinois Humanities is awarding its largest grant pool in the organization’s history for pandemic relief and recovery: $1.4 million to 254 organizations in 72 counties. These awards support public humanities organizations in communities whose residents have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and which are often bypassed by traditional funding streams due to their size, organizational capacity, or geographic location.

This round of grants – which combines funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities received through the American Rescue Plan Act with private donations – builds upon lessons learned during 2020 funding relief efforts detailed in this report, On Wisdom and Vision: The State of the Humanities During COVID-19.

“These grants support the people, places, and spaces that document, preserve, and share our state’s histories, cultures, languages, stories, religions, philosophies and literature; during the pandemic they’ve been on the front lines of strengthening their communities’ well-being and resilience. We are honored to be able to help them respond to and recover from the pandemic,” said Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director of Illinois Humanities.

Grants are being awarded in 72 counties. Grants support applicants who often face systemic barriers to traditional funding streams due to their size or geographic location. Two hundred and ten organizations – with budgets of less than $2 million – received General Operating grants. Humanities organizations – which include history, cultural and ethnic centers, literature and literacy organizations, community media platforms, humanities museums, libraries and archives – play a critical role in documenting and strengthening the resilience of their communities by producing oral histories, curating local archives, creating virtual historic walking tours, producing documentary films, and designing curricula. Grantee partners include The HUB – Arts and Cultural Center (Rushville), Metro East Literacy Project (East St. Louis), National Public Housing Museum (Chicago), Robbins Historical Society and Museum (Robbins), True Star Media (Chicago), and libraries and museums throughout Illinois. Another 44 organizations received public humanities project grants. These projects include oral histories in suburban Chicago Latinx communities (Elgin), a far South Side consortium collecting local histories of the Calumet-region (Chicago), a youth media social justice initiative (Rock Island), a racial justice peace festival (Belleville), and more.

“With so many of our nation’s cultural and educational institutions reeling from the economic fallout of the pandemic, NEH’s state and jurisdictional humanities partners are on the front lines of the crisis, adapting and responding to urgent needs within their states and communities to shore up the humanities organizations that enrich the lives of so many citizens,” said NEH Acting Chairman Adam Wolfson. “NEH is grateful to Illinois Humanities for their help in quickly distributing American Rescue Plan relief funding to where it is most needed. Through the council’s leadership, Illinois’ libraries, museums, cultural centers, and history and literature organizations will be able to continue to serve and support communities around the state in recovering from the pandemic.”

Over the months ahead Illinois Humanities will offer a significant menu of workshops and trainings to support grantees and the state’s ecosystem of public humanities organizations.

“We hope that people will take a moment to read through the list of grantee organizations,” said Mark Hallett, Illinois Humanities Director of Grants Programs. “These groups are the champions of the humanities – of history, of cultural activity and identity, or lifelong learning, in diverse communities across the state. We’re proud to be a supporter of their work.”

To see a complete list of the organizations funded by Illinois Humanities with COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Recovery support, click here. An interactive map of grantees is available here. For additional information about the COVID grants, see the fact sheet here.


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 about Illinois Humanities at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ILHumanities.