NPHM Awarded IMLS Community Catalyst Grant


National Public Housing Museum Awarded IMLS Grant for Entrepreneurship Hub

The National Public Housing Museum is one of twelve awardees of FY2018 Community Catalyst Grant

Chicago, Illinois. Today, the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS) announced that the National Public Housing Museum has been awarded the Community Catalyst Grant for $147,083, with funds to support the Museum’s Entrepreneurship Hub. The highly competitive grant received forty-nine applications this year, and the Museum is one of twelve institutions that will be awarded funding for this grant period. The Museum’s community partners for the Hub include University of Illinois-Chicago’s Social Justice Initiative, the Chicago Housing Authority’s Central Advisory Council, Civic Projects, Archeworks, and many public housing residents.

The project is inspired by the resilience of Chicago’s public housing residents who have worked in informal economies as artists, hair stylists, food purveyors, fashion designers, and social entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneurship Hub focuses on Chicago’s homegrown talent and invests in the innovative potential of public housing residents by providing support, resources, and collective imagining as they move their businesses from the kitchen table to the storefront and beyond.

“With the support of the IMLS grant, we are investing in Chicago’s greatest resource–the creativity and resilience of its people, and demonstrating the power of serving community needs in collaboration with those most impacted,” says Robert Smith III, the Museum’s Associate Director who is leading the efforts to create the Hub.

The Museum’s Hub is made up of four parts including:

  • The Social Justice Business School, a curriculum of classes on economic development economic democracy, cooperative enterprise, small business ecosystems, racialization of space, and neighborhood change.

  • Open Hours, a drop-in and pro-bono business services for public housing residents provided by Chicago designers, architects, and small business owners,

  • A Museum Store, as a groundbreaking public housing resident-owned cooperative business

  • A Storytelling space, featuring workshops that empower residents to share their own stories about entrepreneurship as well as train residents to become oral historians themselves.

“We are excited to play a role in the design and build-out of the Entrepreneurship Hub as the Museum moves closer to completion,” says Monica Chadha of Civic Projects. “The Hub will provide incubation and growth for entrepreneurs and its pairing with the Museum co-op shop creates an ecosystem for businesses to distribute products directly to consumers. The project is a vital component of the Museum’s mission and supports new and innovative approaches to business growth.”

The Community Catalyst Grant supports the work of museums and libraries that push the boundaries of collaboration and innovation within their communities. Through invested partnerships with museums, libraries, and the community developments they serve and interact with, IMLS hopes to create frameworks, tools, and resources that help to strengthen organizational capacity to bring about community change and bolster resilience.

“Social justice activists often know what we are against but this highlights one example of what we are for,” say Barbara Ramsey of UIC’s Social Justice Initiative. “ It offers a chance to experiment with an alternative economic model based on the common good, rather than individual greed.”  The Hub is one of the central components of the Museum and will serve as an innovative creative placemaking initiative that seeks to invest in the existing assets of Chicago’s public housing communities to help generate ongoing civic dialogue, transform public perceptions about public housing, and stimulate equitable economic development.

The Museum uses its cultural capital as well as its existing relationship with Chicago Housing Authority to nurture and grow the social and economic capital of low and very low-income people by providing gathering space to share knowledge, giving opportunities to build business skills through workshops, and offering creative, cultural, design, and architectural services to public housing residents in a dedicated effort to help realize their fresh, dynamic ideas. “  By constructing a space for one of the city’s most marginalized groups of people, the Museum’s Hub is one of the most progressive incubators we’ve seen,” says Willie Lewis of the Central Advisory Committee.“ Between the different teaching opportunities that will be paired alongside the Museum Shop, the Hub innovatively allows for financial opportunity and economic mobility for the residents that will be involved with the project.” The Hub is, as one resident put it,“ a hand up, not a handout.” Rather than individualism or self-reliance, the Entrepreneurship Hub at the NPHM emphasizes community, interdependence, and the common good in order to advance sustainability and strengthen the city’s economic, social, and cultural fabric.

About National Public Housing Museum
The National Public Housing Museum preserves, promotes, and propels housing as a human right, and the right of all Americans to a place where they can live and prosper–a place to call home. Led by the indefatigable Commissioner Deverra Beverly, a founding board member of our institution, public housing residents mobilized and organized in 2010 to save one building in the Jane Addams Homes located in the Near West Side on Taylor Street from demolition in order to create NPHM. Residents insisted on a museum that would preserve and tell their stories, particularly after a devastating period of urban renewal that dramatically erased many of their homes from the urban landscape. In 2018, the Museum was deeded the building by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and negotiated a 99-year lease for $1 with the Chicago Housing Authority. When the Museum opens in their permanent space in 2019, it will include the Entrepreneurship Hub, education and storytelling spaces, historic public art sculptures (Animal Court by Edgar Miller), and several apartments recreated and restored with material culture and artifacts based on oral histories gathered by the Museum over the past decade. Current exhibits and public programming are held at the Museum’s offices at 625 North Kingsbury.  To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About IMLS
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums and related organizations. The agency’s mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Contact:         Mark Jaeschke