The Chester Made initiative is a tangible demonstration of how democracy can be animated by imaginative humanities programming--by people creatively engaged in history, storytelling, and dialogue about issues affecting their community. The initiative reached a culminating moment on July 22, 2015, when the Chester Made Ensemble made a presentation to Chester City Council in the form of an original play and a cultural asset map. The presentation attracted press attention, including an evocative radio and web report by WHYY's Newsworks team, which also appeared on the Keystone Crossroads site and inspired a Nonprofit Quarterly feature.
The Pennsylvania Humanities Council is proud to announce that our Teen Reading Lounge program was recognized as one of 50 finalists (from a pool of more than 300 nominations) for the 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, which honors outstanding after-school and out-of-school programs that transform the lives of young people. “These outstanding programs are expanding horizons, changing lives, and helping young people fulfill their dreams—across America and around the world,” said First Lady Michelle Obama, who is honorary chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “Each of these programs is using achievement in the arts and humanities as a bridge to achievement in life.” Launched in 2010, Teen Reading Lounge is not your typical book club. Led by trained facilitators, the program encourages teens ages 12-18 to design creative projects that bring books to life. Creative projects related to Teen Reading Lounge book discussions have ranged from movie making and archery instruction to wild foods tastings and wilderness survival workshops. Through reading, discussing, and exploring young adult literature together, teens strengthen interpersonal, communication, literacy, and critical-thinking skills, and they increase their confidence. Over five years, the program has been held in 57 libraries across the Commonwealth, and we have documented impressive outcomes. Eight in ten Teen Reading Lounge participants said they felt more confident participating in discussions and activities, expressing thoughts and feelings to others, understanding others’ viewpoints, and forming friendships. Teen Reading Lounge has also helped teenagers build stronger ties to their communities. More than 90 percent of participants say they would go to the library to hang out, recommend that their friends visit, and even assist library staff in developing new programs. One library in southwest Pennsylvania saw its Teen Reading Lounge program blossom into a broader civic-engagement opportunity. While discussing Sean Tan’s graphic novel The Arrival, the teens drew a parallel between its displaced main character, who found a new country where he could thrive, and displaced birds in their neighborhood. Combining this theme with hands-on activity, the group created the Birdhouse Project. Over the next few sessions they built and painted birdhouses together, and, on Arbor Day, they hung them in trees outside the library, working side-by-side with local firefighters and other community members. “It connected the books to their lives and beautified our neighborhood,” program observer Christine Allen Wolfe said. “The teens were able to take pride in the lasting effect, and the experience seeded the idea of taking accountability for their environment.” Teen Reading Lounge programs will launch in the following counties and locations across the state this fall: Allegheny: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh--West End, Wilkinsburg Public Library, and CC Mellor Memorial Library--Edgewood. Blair: Altoona Area Public Library. Bucks: Southampton Free Libray and Warminster Free Library. Cambria: Highland Community Library. Centre: Schlow Centre Region Library. Clarion: Redbank Valley Public Library. Delaware: Rachel Kohl Library and Radnor Memorial Library. Erie: Blasco Memorial Library-Erie County Public Library and Corry Public Library. Jefferson: Mengle Memorial Library and Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library. Montgomery: Huntingdon Valley Library and William Jeanes Memorial Library & Nicholas and Athena Karabots Center for Learning. Philadelphia: Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Institute. Back to Essential Education • Initiatives
As summer winds down, PHC staff members, along with humanities advocates nationwide, await a vote on an appropriations bill for the Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The bill includes level funding of $146 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, with $43 million to be allocated to state humanities councils, including PHC.
Our Belief & Vision
At the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, we believe that the humanities are a uniting and empowering force. They bring people together and provide the knowledge and strength they need to have an impact on their neighborhoods, cities, and towns.
The humanities develop essential thinking and social skills through the exploration of history, the arts, culture, literature, and music and through meaningful conversation. They help us make sense of the world we live in. Through the humanities, we learn to understand one another, to see new possibilities in our future, and to work, play, and live in more fulfilling ways.
What We Do
Promoting Essential Education—We help people develop abilities key to leading successful lives in the 21st century—from critical thinking, to creativity and collaboration.
Sparking Civic Engagement—We empower people to join together and make their communities stronger, using the tools of the humanities.
Championing the Public Humanities—We demonstrate and celebrate the value of the humanities and advocate for their support.