Arts, Culture, and Humanities


Find Your Words

aka The American Writers Museum

Chicago, IL


The mission of the American Writers Museum is to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.

The American Writers Museum strives to:

Educate the public about American writers – past and present;
Engage visitors in exploring the many exciting worlds created by the spoken and written word;
Enrich and deepen appreciation for good writing in all its forms;
Motivate visitors to discover, or rediscover, a love of reading and writing; and
Inspire the young writers of tomorrow

Through innovative and dynamic state-of-the-art exhibitions, as well as compelling programming, the American Writers Museum educates, enriches, provokes, and inspires the public.

Ruling Year



Mr. Carey Cranston

Main Address

180 North Michigan Avenue Suite 300

Chicago, IL 60601 USA







Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Museum & Museum Activities (A50)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016.
Register now

Social Media


Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

America was founded on the written word, but no place in this country was celebrating and promoting the significance of writers and their work on our history and culture in the same way we celebrate sports figures or movie stars. Our founders saw this problem as an opportunity to create an immersive and interactive space that would celebrate great writers of the past, promote the amazing writers of today, and through those efforts, inspire the writers of tomorrow.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Write In Youth Education Program

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

This museum has been designed as a celebratory and interactive space, with exhibits and programs that are meant to engage and excite our visitors. Rather than focus on the artifacts of the writers, our focus is on their words and their stories, looking at writing across all mediums and genres and presenting it in exciting ways that are visual, auditory, and tactile. The American Writers Museum is unique in its conception, design, and execution. From the beginning, there was a recognition that a writers museum could not have a singular voice, so a team of experts worked together as content leaders and subject matter experts, with over 40 scholars, writers, poets, editors and others coming together to focus on the content. Beside these people were some of the best exhibit designers in the country, focused on creating a unique interactive space that allows people to explore and engage. The museum was designed to be interactive, with beautiful videos that explore the breadth and diversity of American writers and innovative touch screen exhibits full of content to areas for people to write and create, everything in this museum from its touchscreens to its typewriters allows visitors to engage, celebrate and learn. And clearly, based on visitor reaction seen on sites like TripAdvisor, where after two years the museum sits at #2 out of 128 Museums in Chicago based on visitor reviews, the solution that has been executed here is powerful. While building a museum that visitors love is one thing, the American Writers Museum has an even deeper long term purpose, which is inspiring the writers of our future. Since we have opened we have built a vibrant youth education program called Write In that has engaged over 10,000 students in and around Chicago, mostly from low income neighborhoods, exposing them to great writing and its power, and we have a plan to increase that impact in the years ahead.

The American Writers Museum provides visitors a first-of-its-kind opportunity to experience the works and the stories of writers, poets, songwriters, novelists, and journalists who have contributed to America's culture come to life in fully-immersive multimedia exhibits. The experience is bolstered by robust educational programming and a speaker series that brings writers from all over the country to Chicago. The American Writers Museum is neither a collection of books nor a definitive list of the greatest, most influential writers. Rather, our intent is to celebrate some of the country's prolific literary minds and invite guests to trace literature's impact on our identity, our culture, and daily lives. The fact that there was no museum focused on this in the country and none other like it to date, makes the American Writers Museum unique, and our impact in the community and the country shows that it is filled a needed space. The AWM's strategic plan outlines goals for growth in several areas, with a particular focus on the Write In youth education program. We are in the first year of an ambitious five-year plan to expand this program with new curriculum, special events with authors just for students, and an expanded online presence that will allow students nationwide to take advantage of this program.

The AWM is located in downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue, in the heart of the city's cultural corridor, and attracts many locals, visitors and schools groups. Our visitors include people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and income levels. The museum's strengths include: outstanding exhibits, an engaged and influential Board of Trustees, staff who are experienced and passionate about the AWM's mission, a strong reputation and brand, and a stable financial position. The AWM has received grants and corporate support from major companies like Wintrust, Allstate, and Exelon, and support from major Chicago foundations such as the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust. In 2019, the AWM received a highly competitive National Endowment for the Humanities grant to support the planning for a new exhibit on Immigrant and Refugee Writers. We have partnered and worked with institutions across the city and country, from the Library of Congress, to the Newberry Library, the Chicago Public Library, the Adler Planetarium and a host of others.

The AWM works with a third party evaluator to assess the visitor experience in the museum as well as the online user experience.

Since opening to the public in 2017, the AWM has welcomed nearly 100,000 visitors from all 50 states and nearly 40 foreign countries. Online reviews are overwhelmingly positive and result in many new visitors. The founders raised $10 million in the museum's first campaign to fund the design and building of the museum. In our first three years, we have increased annual giving each year, primarily due to the support for our youth education program that has served over 10,000 students to date and brought over 150 authors to Chicago for public events from a Supreme Court Justice to literary giants. We have been ranked on TripAdvisor as the #2 Museum in Chicago out of 120+ institutions, falling just below the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2017 we were ranked the #1 Best Attraction in Illinois in a USA Today Readers Best poll, and Fodor's listed the AWM first in its listing of the World's 10 Best New Museums. Our current work is focused on the five-year expansion plan for the Write In youth education program, adding online content, and presenting new exhibits that are innovative, timely and unique, with related author programs that bring our visitors face to face with today's award-winning and bestselling writers.

External Reviews




Need more info on this nonprofit?

Need more info on this nonprofit?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

See what's included


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

See what's included

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Not Applicable


Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Not Applicable


Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

Not Applicable