We put the humanities in action to create positive change.
President Trump has proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While this is deeply concerning, it's important to remember that Congress writes the federal budget, not the president. The president's proposed budget is just one step in a long process, and we're heartened by the strong bipartisan support Congress has shown for the humanities in recent years.
What does it mean to work with communities to make social change? “Sometimes you have to get off the bus. We cannot be tourists as program partners or grantmakers,” said Pennsylvania Humanities Council executive director Laurie Zierer, recounting how she first met Chester artist and entrepreneur Devon Walls. “I remember launching the Chester Made project,” Zierer said. “We did just that—we got off the bus driving us through downtown Chester, and we talked with people. And that’s when everything started to happen for us. We began meeting artists like Devon who had long been working to revitalize the downtown and engage the community through the arts.”
The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has partnered with The Orton Family Foundation to support the city of Uniontown as it incorporates a humanities-based approach to community development. Uniontown has been awarded a $1,000 grant from PHC along with training support valued at $7,500 provided by the Orton Family Foundation to help the city prepare for a Community Heart & Soul® project. PHC and Orton are working together to bring Community Heart & Soul, a community development model pioneered by Orton, to small cities and towns across Pennsylvania. Uniontown will be the fifth Pennsylvania community currently participating in the program, joining Carlisle, Easton, Meadville and Williamsport.
Governor Tom Wolf has appointed Gwendolyn White (Erie), Allen Dieterich-Ward (Shippensburg), and Christina Donato Saler (Bala Cynwyd) to the Pennsylvania Humanities Council Board of Directors.
The Meadville Heart & Soul team is hard at work, having recently relaunched their project under the name My Meadville. This relaunch, along with their rank expansion and partnership development efforts, has enabled them to garner the community support and buy-in that is crucial to the success of Heart & Soul. My Meadville has successfully integrated their efforts into preexisting community development efforts and serves as a unifying force among them.
For author Alex London, dystopias are not just a fun premise for a novel. In a recent visit to the teens of Huntingdon Valley Library’s Teen Reading Lounge program, London emphasized the extent to which dystopias should reflect and engage with real-world issues in a meaningful way. When he was 21, London had the opportunity to work with Refugees International, an organization which advocates for the rights of displaced people around the world. He wrote a “grown-up book” based on this experience, One Day The Soldiers Came, in which he interviewed children in war-torn areas. This gave him an interest in how children and teenagers are able to adapt to adverse circumstances, which over time gave him the impetus to begin writing science-fiction novels, the first of which was Proxy.
‘Humanities are large and embrace so many different ways of learning,” Laurie Zierer says. They can even help Pennsylvania combat two major deficiencies: gaps in achievement and political engagement."
Through funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Standing Together initiative, we've partnered with Penn VUB to expand and enhance the program’s humanities components. The primary goal is to help participants build vital skills such as synthesizing information, effective communication and critical reflection, all of which contribute to success in postsecondary education. Another program goal: building students' confidence in their ability to effect positive change, not only in their own lives, but in their communities as well.
A new video produced by Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul details the group's efforts to collect data on what matters most to the community. By gathering and analyzing stories from as many residents as possible, the Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul team helps honor memories and preserve history--and also move the community to action toward a better future.