In 1972, humanities organizations and scholars from across Wisconsin came together to establish a new organization charged with expanding humanities programming and lifetime learning across the state in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). During the next 50 years, what is now known as Wisconsin Humanities has worked in every part of the state, from the shores of Lake Michigan to the banks of the Mississippi River, to explore what it means to be human through cultural, civic, and educational programs.
Since its inception, Wisconsin Humanities has worked hand in hand with the communities it serves, identifying opportunities for public engagement and providing resources, including critical grant funds, for impactful programming, both independently and with local humanities and cultural institutions. Wisconsin Humanities has supported thousands of programs across the state, distributing $200,000 in grants annually to support community-designed humanities programming. The council’s ongoing projects include Community Powered, a pilot initiative launched in 2022 that uses the humanities to address community challenges in four regions across the state.
Wisconsin Humanities has been pivotal to sustaining humanities organizations across the state in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with NEH, with funding from the American Rescue Plan, Wisconsin Humanities awarded $800,000 to 99 organizations throughout the state, to help maintain humanities jobs and community programming. Love Wisconsin, an initiative launched in 2015 to record and share the stories of Wisconsinites, recorded original stories of individuals living through the pandemic, providing a much-needed sense of connection and shared humanity in these unprecedented times.
In the fall of 2021, Wisconsin Humanities funded American Players Theatre’s (APT) “The Words Between Us” pilot program for more than 300 students in rural Sauk and Dane Counties. The students, enrolled in fifteen English literature high school classes, read novels by authors of color previously not taught in their schools. The APT teaching artists guided students through complex themes, character studies, and discussions necessary for understanding our evolving world. “This program made me excited to come to school in a way that I haven’t felt since before COVID,” shared one student.
NEH congratulates Wisconsin Humanities on 50 remarkable years and thanks the hardworking staff, board, and institutions they partner with for moving the humanities forward in their community. For more information on Wisconsin Humanities, grant opportunities for local organizations, and updates on current programs, visit wisconsinhumanities.org