In 1972, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invited Kansas to join the growing list of states establishing organizations dedicated to bringing humanities programming and funding opportunities directly to local citizens. In the 50 years since, what began as the Kansas Committee for the Humanities has grown into Humanities Kansas, an independent nonprofit that explores the unique stories and big ideas that shape the state of nearly 3 million people. In 2021, Humanities Kansas reached one in six Kansans in 124 communities through its grants, programs, and resources, partnering with 241 local organizations and distributing more than $284,000 in grants, expanding the Humanities Kansas “Movement of Ideas” to all corners of the state. In 2022, as part of their anniversary celebrations, Humanities Kansas hosted 50 events for 50 years in the month of October.
Humanities Kansas’s work is rooted in the belief that stories carry our collective culture and ideas have the power to change the world. For 50 years, Humanities Kansas has engaged communities and created opportunities for them to share their stories in person and online through programs like Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK). The council has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to offer the Museum on Main Street traveling exhibition program. And Humanities Kansas’s Spark! Short Documentary Film Grants program supports films that reflect the diverse experiences of living in Kansas.
Humanities Kansas operates a wide range of programs year round, in addition to producing original media and offering humanities resources for students and lifelong learners alike. Through its 21st Century Civics initiative, these branches come together for a comprehensive approach to examining the history of American democracy and fostering civic engagement in Kansas. In March 2023, in partnership with the Smithsonian, Humanities Kansas will launch “Voices & Votes: Democracy in America,” a touring exhibition exploring the origins of the nation’s democracy and the evolution of the American experiment, with each of the six hosting institutions creating companion exhibits on topics such as Indigenous voting rights and frontier politics. The Humanities Kansas Speakers Bureau, a program that has been touring the state since 1985, features 28 presentations as part of 21st Century Civics that can be booked at no cost to attendees or hosting partners.
In addition to in-person events, 21st Century Civics includes digital resources available to all. Learn the history of communities from Kansas City to Stafford County with Humanities Kansas’s short films collection, engage with a Big Idea through the program’s essays and streaming conversations, and listen to the Kansas 1972 podcast. Launched as part of the Humanities Kansas’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the podcast connects national events and popular culture from 1972 to Kansas history, from the Equal Rights Amendment to Smokey the Bear. In the first episode, “From a Seed Ideas Grow,” travel back to 1972 to meet the newly-formed Kansas Committee for the Humanities as it navigates its inaugural year and, along the way, learn about the founding of NEH and how the humanities in America have evolved in the decades since.
NEH congratulates Humanities Kansas on 50 years of building the “Movement of Ideas” and serving Kansans across the state with engaging programming and impactful grants. To learn more about Humanities Kansas visit humanitieskansas.org.