Whew — we’re hot off a whirlwind of summer visits with federal legislators! Conducted virtually this year, we stressed the importance of the humanities to Pennsylvanians everywhere. During the pandemic our programs and grants provided opportunities for people to connect and discuss important issues, have meaningful cultural and learning experiences, and engage in equitable community-building
PHC, along with our board, partners, and grantees, organized Zoom calls with congressional representatives and their staff in 11 of the 18 districts across both the state and political spectrum, such as Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) and Glenn Thompson (PA-15). We discussed PHC’s work in their district, the crucial importance of the humanities to the state’s economy, the on-going impact of COVID-19, and the available recovery and growth opportunities.
“I always feel a little nervous before advocacy meetings with representatives and legislators,” said John Orr, PHC board member and executive director of Art-Reach. “Then I get into the meetings and remember they’re just people who want to do good things in their districts, and PHC has opportunities that will directly impact their residents. It’s really fun watching opportunity turn into action.”
Taylor Tolton-Kain (PHC staff member), John Orr (PHC board member), and Barbara Kelley (PA Heart & Soul program partner) met with PA-05 district director Heather Boyd.
Our research shows that the pandemic took a hefty toll on the cultural sector: a 37% decline in overall budgets, 34% decline in revenues, and a 22% reduction of full-time employees. Last year, we rapidly responded to this crisis by reallocating our resources to provide emergency support through our Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers program and then later distributed $780,500 through PHC CARES, as part of the CARES Act of 2020.
We continue to focus on meeting the emerging and on-going needs of the humanities by developing statewide webinars, grant opportunities, educational programs, and learning networks. Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s cultural sector is strong, creative, and resilient and has been adapting despite the challenges.
“It’s wonderful to share with legislators about the positive impact that PHC’s programming is having here in Upper Chichester,” said Barbara Kelley, coordinator for Upper Chichester Heart & Soul. “Through Community Heart & Soul we have found a new way to better engage with and inspire our residents using the tools of the humanities.”
The big news for the legislators on this round of summer visits was PA SHARP, our new $1.2 million dollar growth and recovery grant program supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan of 2021. PHC is offering up to $20,000 in flexible funding to support the growth and recovery of the humanities in Pennsylvania. PA SHARP goes beyond relief and is an opportunity to reimagine, reinvent, and re-envision humanities work through planning, capacity building, and creative programming.
“It was a breath of fresh air to connect with representatives across the state and assure them that the humanities are doing important work in their districts,” said Taylor Tolton-Kain, PHC’s Program and Communications Associate.
Although PHC advocates year-round for the humanities, we now have a little time to catch our breath before getting prepped for our next big push at Humanities on the Hill 2022.