What’s ahead for PA Humanities’ 50th

August 16, 2023

PA Humanities began as a grantmaking organization to support the humanities throughout the state.

As we grew, we developed our own innovative programs and worked with statewide partners including PA Historical and Museum Commission, PA Council on the Arts and the PA Department of Educations’ Office on Commonwealth Libraries on initiatives to foster connection and help broaden an appreciation of the humanities across Pennsylvania. Beginning in 2013, we shifted our energy to putting the humanities in action for education and civic engagement grounded in inclusive, people-centered, humanities-driven community building. 

What do we have in store now for our 50th anniversary? Some of these programs are already underway and some are yet to come, but all are part of the big celebration! Read more about them! 

Rain Poetry >

A young poet pours water on the sidewalk to activate the invisible paint and make poetry appear like magic at the Rain Poetry reveal at Carroll Park in West Philadelphia.

Just as the rain nourishes the earth, Rain Poetry is nourishing young minds across Pennsylvania. Education, imagination, creativity and community spaces came together this spring in Philadelphia with the kickoff of this unique initiative. We connected prominent Philadelphia poets with local elementary school children in predominantly BIPOC-serving schools throughout the city, and they worked together to create haikus on the theme, “What makes you grow?”

The budding wordsmiths not only learned literacy skills but also the power of self-expression as they discovered the poets within themselves, and then we sprinkled in even more magic. Select poems were installed in local parks using a combination of decals and special water-activated paint that’s invisible when dry and only reveals itself when wet. The children can now celebrate their work in community spaces and share it with their families and neighbors while sparking wonder and joy and inviting conversation for all who pass through. 

Watch for more Philadelphia location reveals this fall!

AND….this spring we’re bringing Rain Poetry to the western side of the state! We’ll be partnering with organizations in Pittsburgh and Johnstown so look for announcements in the coming months, and get ready to come out and celebrate the rain!

Voices of History

A civil rights march to the post office in Washington, Pa., in April 1964. Photo credit: Observer-Reporter.

Storytelling is at the very foundation of the humanities, and at PA Humanities we believe in its power to help people document their own culture and history and to inspire all of us to work together to build a more equitable society. Voices of History is a first-of-its-kind, statewide effort to collect and celebrate the stories, family histories, struggles and triumphs of Black Pennsylvanians from the 20th and 21st centuries. Inspired by the works of prominent Black playwrights, this project will use an innovative humanities-based approach with theater, story collecting and speaker talks, engaging different kinds of target audiences and connecting history Black communities throughout the state. 

Such an important, ambitious project deserves a special kickoff celebration, and that’s exactly what we have planned for next spring in Pittsburgh. We can’t tell you exactly who’s going to help us launch Voices of History just yet, but you won’t want to miss it! Stay tuned!

Youth-Led Humanities > 

Teen Reading Lounge has been one of PA Humanities’ signature programs for more than a decade, and this summer we took another step in this unconventional, forward-thinking programming with the launch of the Youth-Led Humanities cohort. This new program draws on 10 years of TRL research and evaluation and is helping libraries and out-of-school-time organizations lay the groundwork for sustainable programs in which teens and young people lead the way and practice self-determination. 

“The Youth-Led Humanities cohort is a more systemic approach to thinking about what makes an organization or a space welcoming and affirming to youth,” PA Humanities education program officer Julia Terry said. “It’s not only focused on programming, but also on the systems that surround young people, from the direct service staff to leadership.” 

PA Humanities Discovery Project >

We’re constantly conducting evaluation at PA Humanities and are always eager to learn more about ourselves, our partners, and the impacts of our work. With the PA Humanities Discovery Project, we’re working with researchers from Drexel University to map, network and celebrate the wonderfully rich humanities landscape across the state. The project began with a survey in 2022, followed by a series of diverse focus groups at the start of 2023 so that we could dig deeper into the initial findings. 

Stay tuned this fall as we begin to share our findings. We’re going to tell the first-ever story of the humanities across the state while building a more inclusive and connected community for sharing, learning and advocacy, and we can’t wait for you to be part of it!

Wingspan grant program >

PA Humanities is proud to announce the launch of Wingspan, a new grant program to support BIPOC-led and serving or rural organizations doing community-based humanities work by providing $100,000 in flexible funding over two years. Wingspan draws its inspiration from the diverse organizations that make Pennsylvania thrive. Its mission is to help them soar and expand their possibilities by providing new resources, amplifying their voices, and cultivating additional space for creativity and connection.

The development of Wingspan was informed by adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy – and our own emergent learning process. We will apply these practices with leaders across the state so they can extend their reach – spread their wings! – and work collectively to bring more equity to the humanities. This grant is a new and exciting extension of PA Humanities’ community-based humanities work and its research confirming BIPOC-led or serving organizations and rural organizations need better access to resources. The application process opens the week of Aug. 21.

Related Stories

Stay Up To Date

Sign up for the PA Humanities newsletter now.