Skip to main content

February 2009

the latest from
Suite 603


February 28, 2009

Federal/State Partnership, NEH, and the Federation of State Humanities Councils welcomed the newest council executives at orientation meetings here in Washington, February 4-6.

In the articles below they tell us how they see their work and the work of their councils. At the time of the meeting, Ken Egan of Humanities Montana had been on the job four days and Christina Barr of Nevada Humanities, about seventeen days. Ralph Lewin was the most seasoned, having begun his directorship a few days before last year's orientation—but unable to attend because he was facing his first board meeting that weekend.

The 2008-2009 class of council executives: (l-r) Ken Egan, Montana; Ralph Lewin, California; Herb Paine, Arizona; Phoebe Stein Davis, Maryland; Brenna Daugherty, North Dakota; Christina Barr, Nevada; Keira Amstutz, Indiana; and Tony V. De Leon Guerrero, Northern Mariana Islands
Herb Paine and the Arizona Humanities Council
Ralph Lewin and the California Council for the Humanities
Keira Amstutz and the Indiana Humanities Council
Phoebe Stein Davis and the Maryland Humanities Council
Ken Egan and Humanities Montana
Christina Barr and Nevada Humanities
Brenna Daugherty and the North Dakota Humanities Council
Tony V. De Leon Guerrero and the Humanities Council of the Northern Mariana Islands

The 2009 We the People deadlines are March 17 & May 5. All WTP applications must be submitted using
Federal/State Partnership's Digital File Cabinet
has information about registering with and submitting an application through it.

 Visit the Federal/State Partnership website frequently. 

This website is a resource for executives, boards, and staff of state humanities councils. Join the Federal/State Partnership email list from the first page of the website.

Herb Paine and the Arizona Humanities Council

As is the case with our sister Councils, the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) is designing programs both to broaden the reach and relevance of the humanities to current and new audiences. Three examples reflect our commitment to these ends.

Thanks to funding from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture’s ArtSpace Program, AHC has launched the Young Chautauqua Program, an afterschool initiative targeted to 40 students in grades 3-6. In collaboration with Childsplay, a professional theatre company for young adults and families, the program integrates performance with research and brings humanities scholarship to the classroom. With the guidance and instruction of a historian from Arizona State University and two Chautauqua scholars, the children will research notable Arizona figures and, with coaching from Childsplay professionals, will learn character development through writing, improvisation, costuming, and, ultimately, live performance of their characters. By reflecting on the stories of their characters and those of their fellow students, the children will reflect as well on the histories they are about to create for themselves.

Given the pervasive impact of the current recession, AHC is planning a forum on the economic downturn, focusing on the insights that the humanities may offer regarding the social, political, and economic implications of “hard times,” past and present, and matters of social and corporate responsibility, human behavior, and ethics.

Finally, in an effort to engage younger audiences and acknowledge the phenomenon of hip-hop, the Council is collaborating with ASU’s Department of English in its celebration of Shakespeare’s 445th birthday, to present both performance, a hip hop adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and inter-generational conversation regarding the meaning and intention of hip hop.

Ralph Lewin and the California Council for the Humanities

The California Council for the Humanities is focusing on a few important projects.  First, we are exploring the history and stories of immigration in California through a website and teacher workshops called We Are California. We Are California is much more than a website; it is an important way for people to explore how are fundamentally shaped by immigration and how knowledge of that history is important to our democracy. We have held We Are California teacher workshops at ten different sites, including UCLA, Stanford, and CSU Fresno. We are also working on a statewide project called My Place, designed to connect youth with their local libraries. At the libraries, they create photography exhibitions that explore the place of these youth in the world. Finally, the Council is in a period of reinvention as we make our way through a strategic planning process that we expect will help us better serve Californians and strengthen the role of the humanities in the lives of individuals and our democracy.

Keira Amstutz and the Indiana Humanities Council

In 2009, the Indiana Humanities Council is engaged in our state as a convener, leader and partner in initiatives that support the sharing of ideas, promote the public humanities and engage a community of minds to examine and improve the human condition. In these challenging times, we are working diligently to ensure that our grant making and programming are relevant and leverage our valuable collaborative partnerships.

Together with Ball State University's Bowen Center for Public Affairs and other statewide organizations, including the State Chamber of Commerce, the Council will host four public workshops this spring to help communities navigate difficult issues vital to their regions. The first pair of workshops titled Speaking locally: Southwestern Indiana discusses the structure of local government will feature content ranging from a presentation on the history of local government in Indiana to question-and-answer forums, small-group meetings and panel discussions so residents can learn about, discuss and help forge approaches to Indiana’s local government reform initiatives. The other workshops will focus on community development, the arts and culture as a strategy for economic development and sustainability.

The Council is preparing for the kick off in 2010 of a two year themed project titled “Food for Thought.” The program will engage Hoosiers through an examination and celebration of the ways food defines Indiana’s culture by considering food in the context of history, law, politics, science, the arts, religion, ethnicity and our place in the world. The program will allow citizens to address the local and global issues of hunger, nutrition, food production, obesity, food security and safety.Indiana's intellectual, creative and cultural resources are broad and deep. Found in a variety of settings and forms, they are dynamic forces that define the state and its people. 

The Council’s challenge is to gather the resources so that they can be shared, challenged, enhanced and celebrated. Through a new digital platform we call Dynamic Indiana, the Council’s goal is to harness technology to create an online town square where the great work being done in the humanities in Indiana can be accessed, presented, appraised, studied and applauded. Throughout the year, the Council opens the doors of our historic home to the public for humanities-inspired programming that includes lectures, art exhibits and presentations and encourages critical thinking and discussion.

Phoebe Stein Davis and the Maryland Humanities Council

After seven months on the job, I have become increasingly aware that Maryland is a state steeped in history and a state that takes the exploration of that history very seriously. In the past three months, I have been asked if the Council would be able to do programming in Maryland to mark no fewer than four major historical anniversaries: Edgar Allan Poe's 200th birthday (2009), Lincoln's 200th Birthday (2009), the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War (2011-2015), and the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 (2012). I am particularly aware of Maryland as an historical site as I've had family in the Baltimore area dating back to the 19th century.

That said, our goal at the Council is to be relevant and accessible to Marylanders' everyday lives and to offer up a place where they can reflect together on what their past means for the present and the future of the state. With this mission in mind we created "Sitting Down to Take a Stand: Remembering Rosa Parks," as part of our "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Remembrance and Reconciliation" special initiative. In December, to mark the anniversary of Rosa Parks' decision to remain in her seat, we installed an exhibition about the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott on a vintage 1958 Baltimore city bus and drove it down to Lexington Market, a giant Westside market house that is home to more than 140 vendors hawking everything from crab cakes and candy to sushi and soul food. We had a living history performance by "Rosa Parks" inside the Market at 10 a.m., and the bus was parked outside the market for three hours for passersby to jump on and see the exhibition. The bus then toured to a local public library where a number of school groups had the opportunity to see the exhibition. We reached more than 1,000 people that day, and I would guess many of them were new to our programs. The exhibition is on display through February at a public metro stop in Downtown Baltimore, it will then go in March to the Eubie Blake National Jazz Center. In conjunction with the exhibition, MHC also produced a five-part radio series and a civil rights film series. Learn more about this project >> 

Ken Egan and Humanities Montana

Humanities Montana is rebranding, reimagining, recreating.  We have entered our year of self-assessment and so are very much in a listening mode. We want to understand our place in the cultural ecology of Montana and the region, then respond to needs and opportunities for cultural programming.
We have two major emphases as we enter this phase of reconsideration:
1. We must go younger. We will experiment with new content (for example, programs on fantasy, science fiction, and the graphic novel) and with new media (social networking sites, blogs, YouTube).

2. We will continue to nurture efforts at civil engagement in our state.  Humanities Montana fills an important niche by bringing diverse constituencies together in thoughtful dialogue. 

Christina Barr and Nevada Humanities

Programs sponsored by Nevada Humanities provide opportunities for Nevadans to read widely, think deeply, and become engaged in their communities. In addition to the several hundred separate activities supported each year through grants, Nevada Humanities coordinates several programs directly, or in cooperation with other organizations.

Great Basin Chautauqua is a living history program in which scholars in costume and in character, bring historical figures to life. Chautauqua programs not only provide dramatic insights into historic people and events but also provide a for surveying contemporary issues and enduring humanistic concerns. The award-winning Young Chautauqua program teaches young people learn how to research and develop original presentations.

Since 2002, Vegas Valley Book Festival brings award-winning authors to southern Nevada, and draws attention to the state's growing number of writers and poets.

Food for Thought is an annual benefit dinner. Each table offers thought-provoking conversation hosted by passionate and engaged members of the community.

The Humanities on the Road speakers bureau provides opportunities for Nevadans to read widely, think deeply, and become engaged in their community.  

Through its grantmaking program Nevada Humanities provides direct funding to cultural organizations supporting programs as diverse as the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Nevada Public Radio’s "Nevada Yesterdays" series, and "Nevada Hispanic Services’ Teach & Learn: Our Hidden History/Latinas in History." Nevada Humanities also serves as a convening for a civic reflection initiative. It is an essential and critical part of Nevada’s cultural wealth.

Brenna Daugherty and the North Dakota Humanities Council

The North Dakota Humanities Council has partnered with the University of North Dakota and Prairie Public Broadcasting to launch, the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life. The mission of the institute is to bridge the gap between academic philosophy and the general public. It was founded to cultivate statewide, national, and international discussions between philosophy professionals and others who have an interest in the subject regardless of experience or credentials. The Institute was conceived on the premise that anyone can do philosophy, that the subject area easily relates to everyone's daily lives, and that any lack of understanding is largely a problem of translating between academics and non-academics.

The Institute seeks to cultivate philosophy in numerous media. First and foremost, the institute sponsors a month call-in radio show on Prairie Public Radio. Broadcast on the second Sunday of each month at 5:00 p.m. central standard time Why? Philosophical discussions about everyday life will feature philosophers and others whose work addresses the fundamental questions of the human experience. From time to time Why? will travel to towns across the state, recording the episode at town-hall style meetings during which the members of the audience get to participate directly in the conversation.

The Institute also plays host to fellows, both regional and national, who will visit UND to advance their own research and present their work in a manner that is accessible to the general public. In addition to hosting lectures, the radio show, and visiting fellows, the Institute plans a film series and discussion groups around the state, and, eventually, a journal presenting non-technical translations of academic philosophical research.  Finally, all institute events will be archived on this website for free 24-hour access. Lectures, discussions, Why? episodes, and audio vignettes recounting people's thoughts on philosophy in their lives will provide a spectrum of material for those interested in philosophy but who may not have access to IPPL's live events.

Tony V. De Leon Guerrero and the Humanities Council of the Northern Mariana Islands

MotherRead Program Continues to Improve Family Literacy The Northern Mariana Islands Council for the Humanities began the MotherRead Program, a nationally-acclaimed family literacy program, in 1998 on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. During 2007, 221 adults and 332 children participated in this high-demand literacy program. Last year, the MotherRead Program completed 30 class cycles that were attended by 235 primarily low-income parents. A significant number of the participants, about 82%, completed their courses and were awarded certificate of completions. The Council plans to expand the accessibility of this program throughout the Commonwealth and will take a proactive role in soliciting local funds from its business community members and individual donors.

Chamorro Language Project The NMI Council for the Humanities recognizes the importance of this Collaborative Research Project to upgrade the documentation and preservation of the Chamorro Language. The Council is collaborating with the University of California, Santa Cruz to study and preserve the endangered Chamorro Language by utilizing funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The three-year project involves producing a revised Chamorro-English Dictionary and videotaping Chamorro speakers for archival purposes. The Chamorro Language Project is being managed and directed by Dr. Liz Rechebei and the dictionary revision workgroup is headed by Dr. Rita Inos These two longtime Chamorro educators will be assisted by Sandra Chung, a linguist from UC, Santa Cruz who has done linguistic research on Chamorro since 1976.

National Endowment for the Humanities
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 603
Washington, DC 20506
202.606.8254, main number
202.606.8365, fax

Edie Manza, director [about ]
Kathleen Mitchell, senior program officer [ about ]
Shirley Newman, program assistant [ about ]
Dwan Reece, senior program officer [ about ]

visit to keep up with the
National Endowment for the Humanities