Illinois Humanities’ Foreground Rural Initiative to Support Cultural Programs in 19 Illinois Counties With $250,000 in Grants

 For Immediate Release: December 8, 2022

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Sarah Sommers

Read Time 3 minutes
December 8, 2022

Contact: Sarah Sommers at | 773-251-4772

This first-of-its-kind program ensures critical resources and visibility are brought to rural communities and small towns overlooked by traditional funding efforts.

CHICAGO, DECEMBER 8, 2022 – Illinois Humanities is proud to announce the first 27 partners who will receive funding and resources through its new Foreground Rural Initiative. Located across 19 counties in Illinois, the inaugural Foreground grantee partners will receive grants of up to $10,000 and participate in skill- and resource-sharing programs. Illinois Humanities will also partner with grantees on the co-creation of place-based “hubs” that will host community events in 2023 in the regions where they are located.

“The organizations we fund in rural and small towns serve places that were under duress even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Illinois Humanities. “They are trusted, responsive community members that serve as critical social and economic anchors. In short, they are the places that keep the people in our state creative and connected.”

In Spring of 2022, Illinois Humanities introduced the Foreground Rural Initiative, a first-of-its-kind program dedicated to supporting the arts and humanities in rural communities and small towns in Illinois – communities often overlooked by traditional funding efforts. Foreground provides critical resources for individuals and organizations working in the arts, culture, and humanities, increasing their capacity and visibility. The initiative represents a multi-year commitment by Illinois Humanities to not only seed growth in rural communities, but ensure that they flourish.

“A key priority for Foreground is that we are connecting grantees with the resources, tools, and networks to advance their own missions,” said Fairouz AbuGhazaleh, director of statewide programs at Illinois Humanities. “We look forward to learning more about how to make this initiative as impactful as possible for them, and the communities they serve.”

An advisory committee and group of 37 past grantee partners representing 25 counties informed the initiative through a series of listening sessions hosted by Illinois Humanities. Grantee partners shared their experiences organizing and funding arts and cultural work in their regions, and the unique challenges that rural communities face. Experiences of being passed over funding, having trouble accessing resources, and reaching potential audiences were common. Common, too, was the sense of pride and complexity in a rural identity. As the initiative enters its first year, these partnerships will remain paramount.

“The relationships we have been fortunate to build with rural partners have grown and multiplied over the years. Their generosity of ideas has been great, and fundamentally shaped the design of Foreground,” said Matt Meacham, program manager of statewide engagement at Illinois Humanities.

Full list of Foreground Rural Initiative Grantee Partners

  • Cairo Historical Preservation Project; Alexander County
  • Carbondale Community Arts Inc dba Artspace 304; Jackson County
  • Carlinville Winning Communities; Macoupin County
  • Crossroads Cultural Connections; Henry County
  • Evans Public Library; Fayette County
  • Fulton City Arts; Fulton County
  • Gallery 510 Art & Framing, an Illinois Art Gallery; Macon County
  • Grundy City Historical Society; Grundy County
  • Here and Again Inc.; LaSalle County
  • Heterodyne Broadcasting; Jackson County
  • Historic Ellisville Restoration Organization; Fulton County
  • Historic Marbold Farmstead Assoc.; Menard County
  • The HUB – Arts & Cultural Ctr; Schuyler County
  • Illinois Rural Heritage Museum; Perry County
  • Legacy Training and Development; Pulaski County
  • Men of Power Women of Strength, Inc.; Alexander County
  • Moultrie County Historical & Genealogical Society; Moultrie County
  • The Realitea Project; Cumberland County
  • Savanna Historical Society; Carroll County
  • Schuyler County Architectural Foundation; Schuyler County
  • Southern Illinois Cultural & Bilingual Arts Education; Jackson County
  • Tri-State Public Radio; McDonough County
  • Brian “Fox” Ellis; Henry County
  • Stephanie Fraction; Alexander County
  • Sandra Pfeifer; Pope County
  • Dennis Stroughmatt; Edwards County
  • Chris Vallillo (Gin Ridge); McDonough County

Learn more at


Illinois Humanities is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that spark conversation, foster reflection, build community, and strengthen civic engagement for everyone in Illinois. Founded in 1974, we are the state partner for the National Endowment for the Humanities and is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.

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