Illinois Humanities Announces Major Gift Establishing the Envisioning Justice Pooled Fund for Illinois

For Immediate Release: May 19, 2022

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Illinois Humanities

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May 19, 2022

$500,000 challenge grant launches new funding mechanism for small Illinois arts and humanities nonprofits in communities impacted by mass incarceration

CHICAGO, May 19, 2022

Illinois Humanities is to receive a $500,000 challenge grant from the Art for Justice Fund to enable the organization to make grants and provide consistent capacity-building support for small nonprofit arts and humanities organizations working to address the injustices of mass incarceration across the state.

Art for Justice Fund founder Agnes Gund announced the gift today at Illinois Humanities’ annual Public Humanities Awards. Art for Justice received the 2022 Beacon Award in recognition of its work championing the humanities in Illinois and beyond.

“I’m pleased to share that Art for Justice is making a $500,000 challenge grant to Illinois Humanities for a new pooled grantmaking fund,” Gund announced. “It will support organizations, artists, and humanists across Illinois to change hearts, minds, and policies. Our hope is that other donors will provide a dollar-for-dollar match to launch this effort. Together, artists, advocates, and allied funders can transform the criminal legal system and create a safe and equitable future.” The Pooled Fund will support the Illinois Humanities’ Envisioning Justice program by providing annual grantmaking of at least $150,000 over the next five years.

From its inception in 2017, the Envisioning Justice initiative has supported humanists and artists in bearing witness to the injustices of the criminal legal system. By amplifying the voices of system-impacted people through exhibits, programs, and grantmaking, Envisioning Justice has served as a catalyst for everyday people to learn about the causes and impacts of mass incarceration, and to imagine alternatives together.

Illinois Humanities Executive Director Gabrielle Lyon said, “Over the past five years, we have seen the unique challenges faced by Illinois activists and community-based organizations doing this work. In particular, the barriers they face are due to a dearth of consistent funding and an absence of the capacity-building support necessary for sustained movement building. The gift from Art for Justice is an extraordinary testament to the crucial role artists and humanists play in enabling all of us to envision justice.”

Agnes Gund founded the Art for Justice Fund in 2017 to end mass incarceration and the racism that drives it in the United States. This six-year catalytic fund (ending in 2023) has already provided close to $100 million in grants to over 200 artists, advocates, and organizations that are transforming the criminal legal system and creating a future of shared safety for all.

“We are thrilled that Illinois Humanities will be able to continue the impactful legacy of Art for Justice,” Lyon said of the partnership. “The Envisioning Justice Pooled Fund for Illinois can supercharge efforts to advance narrative change through the humanities and arts in order to build a world without mass incarceration.”

Illinois Humanities’ goal is to raise $500,000 in the next six months to match seed funding from Art for Justice through contributions from local and national foundations, as well as individual donors.

For more information on the Pooled Fund or to contribute, please contact Illinois Humanities’ Director of Development Morven Higgins at 312.422.5584 or

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.

Art for Justice was founded in 2017 by Agnes Gund to end mass incarceration in the United States and the racism that drives it. This six-year catalytic fund ending in 2023 has already made close to $100 million in grants to over 250 artists, advocates, and organizations that are transforming the criminal legal system and creating a future of shared safety for all.