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news
Jan 12, 2021

Centerville Clinics’ Partial Hospitalization program for young adults experiencing mental health issues includes medication management, therapy sessions, and humanities activities and discussions through Teen Reading Lounge at Greensburg Hempfield Area Library. This new library-clinic partnership was developed by Jessica Kiefer, head children's librarian, who saw an opportunity to provide additional resources and support from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) to youth in the treatment program during the pandemic. “Libraries are so poorly underfunded, and schools are so poorly funded, but these guys really had nothing,” said Kiefer. “Very, very limited resources.” Teen Reading Lounge (TRL) is PHC’s award-winning, nontraditional book club for youth that has been implemented at libraries and schools across Pennsylvania. Participants work together to co-create the reading list for their program sites and, with support from trained facilitators, design creative and civic engagement projects together.  In response to COVID-19, Teen Reading Lounge activities moved online but facilitators statewide have managed to keep youth involved with the program through virtual book discussions, projects, and events. At Greensburg Hempfield Area Library, activities have included creating necklaces inspired by the Lockwood & Co. book series, a self-reflective collage project where teens shared stories and a Zoom meeting with author A. S. King, winner of the American Library Association’s Printz Award for her young adult novel Dig.  “She really listened to the kids and made them feel seen and heard,” said Kiefer.  With funding from PHC, the library purchased $500 in new books for the hospitalization program’s small library. The teens also received individual boxes with books and other gifts along with a personalized letter from library staff.  On-going research from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit shows Teen Reading Lounge to be a beneficial program for young people in a variety of community settings, supporting healthy social-emotional development and other key life skills, but this is the first time it has integrated with mental health services. In adjusting the program, Greensburg Hempfield Area Library made thoughtful book selections that are sensitive to youth who experienced trauma and HIPPA regulations prevented taking photos of the teens. Overall, participants engaged in the same deep humanities discussions, sharing of feelings, and creative projects as other sites -- important personal interactions that are especially crucial for young people during the extended periods of isolation created by the pandemic.   “In our program evaluation last year, we saw across all of our TRL sites that the most reported outcome was that students were better able to express their thoughts and feelings to others,” said Julia Terry, PHC’s education program officer. “Books are a powerful jumping off point for students to reflect on and share their own beliefs, concerns, and dreams in a safe and supportive environment.” One of the more popular activities at the Teen Reading Lounge group was painting a tea set at the Pottery Playhouse followed by a tea party, which was inspired by conversations about the book The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud.  “We had so much fun with the kids and they were so responsive,” said Rosemary Sovyak, a retired teacher and guidance counselor who helps facilitate the program. Some of the young people were hesitant about participating at first but soon became hooked on the stories and discussions. “A student told me that before going to [Centerville Clinics’ Partial Hospitalization program] she never wanted to join or participate in any activities, but she has enjoyed TRL so much that she wanted to come to the library,” said Kiefer. “They were excited about future programs and thanked me a lot.” ***   Teen Reading Lounge is  made possible by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Department of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor.  Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, generous individuals, foundations, and corporations.

news
Jan 12, 2021

This event is now over. You can watch the recording here.   All eyes were on Pennsylvania as it captured the national spotlight during the 2020 Presidential election. From the surge of mail-in voting amid a pandemic to accusations of fraud to a deadly insurrection in the Capitol, it has been a contentious electoral season that challenges the foundations of our democracy. How has it changed voters' faith in our government and media? What have we learned and how can we heal and move forward?  Join host Solomon Jones and a diverse panel of political experts for “What Now?”, a statewide, interactive discussion about the election and aftermath, including ways Pennsylvanians can promote decency, dialogue, and informed civic engagement. The conversation will be driven by WHYY’s interviews with voters from across the state, who shared stories and their perspective, and feature an opportunity for audience questions. Panelists include: Solomon Jones, WURD Radio Host/WHYY News Columnist  Charlie Dent, former Pennsylvania Republican US Congressman Camille Burge, Villanova University Political Science Professor Katie Meyer, WHYY Political Reporter Jamari Davis, Voter and Businessman from Lebanon, PA "What Now?" will livestream on Thursday, January 14th from 4-5:30PM. You can register through the link below:   Note: All registrants will receive a post-event email from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council asking for feedback about their experience.   Funding is provided by the "Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation" initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

news
Jan 05, 2021

Highland Community Library in Johnstown was one of 47 statewide grantees for Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers. Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) created the program to provide rapid relief to cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds supported arts organizations, museums, historical societies, and libraries as they began to shift their events and activities to online platforms. Every year Highland Community Library’s Summer Learning Program draws local families from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds into the library to participate in engaging events and activities. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 safety concerns, this was not possible in 2020. But with grant funding from PHC, they built a new online platform for their patrons using Beanstack, a service that connects libraries to their communities for large-scale literacy and learning programs.  With Beanstack, the library created a virtual summer program for youth that was fun, interactive, and educational. Designed around the humanities theme Imagine Your Story, it included challenges where patrons earned points by completing activities like reading a book or sharing about their community’s story. Accumulated points could be redeemed to receive a free t-shirt and enter a raffle for a new Kindle Fire. The program focused on finding ways for residents to connect with each other during the pandemic through storytelling. “Participants told us they were excited that the programs encouraged whole-family participation, and parents were especially happy to have interactive activities to do with their children over the summer,” said Ashlee Kiel, Library Director. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and moving forward we intend to incorporate an independent online component in our summer program every year.” At a time of social distancing, dynamic and engaging virtual programming and events by cultural organizations like Highland Community Library bring Pennsylvanians together to celebrate heritage and identity, build community and joy, create new virtual platforms, leverage assets like nature and place, and document our human stories. Learn more about Highland Community Library at: cclsys.org/highland/   The Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers program is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, individual donors to PHC, and an anonymous donor who offered additional funds for Philadelphia-based projects serving artists and small arts organizations.

news
Dec 09, 2020

Digital stories created by, for, and about Chester residents are the centerpiece of Chester Made’s new website now live at www.chestermade.org. Designed in partnership with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Chester Made website is an expansive online resource featuring photos, video, audio, and article archives about the ever-evolving arts and culture community-based venture. The first five digital stories are introduced on the website’s homepage and represent another way that Chester Made is making Chester.  Chester Made is a humanities-based initiative to celebrate and promote arts and culture in Chester, PA and harness their power as a force for community revitalization. Chester Made is a project of MJ Freed Theater and Pennsylvania Humanities Council, with funding from Spring Point Partners. According to Chester Made Project Manager Ulysses Slaughter, the introduction of digital stories is an innovative way to expand the project’s mission in the current social environment.   Twyla "Ms. T" Simpkins is the founder and director of The Yes We Can Achievement & Cultural Center, and has led numerous Chester Made history programs, including the 2018 humanities summer Camp LegaCy: Making My Museum. In this story, Ms. T reminisces about what has always made Chester home to her.  “We’ve been working on this project for nearly a year,” said Slaughter. “Twelve months ago we had no idea we’d be at a moment in history when online visibility would be crucial. But here we are and ready with some great digital stories about Chester by Chester, for Chester. We look forward to collecting more stories each month.” The first series of the Chester Digital Stories focuses on why storytellers stay in Chester. Residents, including journalists and teachers, share their fondest memories and observations about living in Chester.  Each story is accompanied by personal photographs, with an average length of three minutes. Upcoming stories will focus on a variety of topics including social life, travel, food and education. The Chester Made website also includes a section for anyone to submit their idea for a Chester Digital story.  https://chestermade.org/tell-us-your-story-idea/ About Chester Made Chester Made is a humanities-based initiative to celebrate and promote arts and culture in Chester and harness their power as a force for community revitalization. The Chester Made Institute and pop-up makerspace at 511 Avenue of the States is now a creative, cultural hub in the heart of the historic arts and culture district. It gives community members the chance to engage with one another, learn more about the city’s cultural assets and history, rebuild their downtown, and change perceptions about Chester. Chester Made is a community project of MJ Freed Theater and Pennsylvania Humanities Council, with funding from Spring Point Partners and support from people who live, work, and play in Chester.

news
Dec 07, 2020

Office of Public Art (OPA) in Pittsburgh was one of 47 statewide grantees for Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers. PHC created the program to provide rapid relief to cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds supported arts organizations, museums, historical societies, and libraries as they began to shift their events and activities to online platforms. OPA engages with Pittsburgh-area artists in shaping the public realm and encouraging community-led change. Prior to the pandemic, all of their programming was in-person, which included walking tours, artist workshops, artist talks, and collaborating with other organizations. To foster connections and fill the void created by social distancing measures, OPA looked to social media for inspiration. After Dinner Conversations, supported by PHC’s Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers, connected residents from the Pittsburgh region to local and national dialogues about the role of cultural producers during the time of COVID-19 and beyond.  The program involved a series of Instagram Live streams presented between July and October. Each session invited a cultural producer from Pittsburgh to engage in a half-hour long conversation with a peer of their choosing. Participants included: Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer and Madeline Gent Kilolo Luckett and Jessica Lynne D.S. Kinsel and Vatic Kuumba   Njaimeh Njie and Hourglass Bekezela Mguni and Mi'Jan Celie Tho-Biaz The result was meaningful, relevant dialogue touching upon creative inspiration, working during the pandemic, and the impact that their relationship to one another has had on their work and lives.  "This project increased OPA’s Instagram audience engagement, not only during the live sessions, but also in the post-session viewership,” said Rachel Klipa, Program Manager at OPA. “The Pop-Up grant assisted OPA with experimenting and developing a new online program during the pandemic and we are now considering incorporating After Dinner Conversations into our regular public programming.” At a time of social distancing, dynamic and engaging virtual programming and events by cultural organizations like OPA bring Pennsylvanians together to celebrate heritage and identity, build community and joy, create new virtual platforms, leverage assets like nature and place, and document our human stories. Learn more about OPA and how you can support their work at: opapgh.org.   The Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers program is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, individual donors to PHC, and an anonymous donor who offered additional funds for Philadelphia-based projects serving artists and small arts organizations.

News
Nov 18, 2020

The African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) was one of 47 statewide grantees for Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers. PHC created the program to provide rapid relief to cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds supported arts organizations, museums, historical societies, and libraries as they began to shift  their events and activities to online platforms.  AAMP is the first institution built by a major United States city to house and interpret the life and work of African Americans. PHC’s Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers supported their collaboration with The Escape Artist Initiative to create Parable of Coronas, a zine inspired by Parable of the Sower, the prophetic novel by Octavia E. Butler.   Escape Artist Mixtape zines explore the art of survival through myth, media and music, D.I.Y and pop culture, afrofuturism and speculative fiction. Parable of Coronas included micro-interviews and an interactive playlist with contributions from local and national escape artists and radical visionaries of change.  The free live zine release event was held on August 7th, hosted by lead artist and founder of the Escape Artist Initiative, Li Sumpter.  At a time of social distancing, dynamic and engaging virtual programming and events by cultural organizations like AAMP bring Pennsylvanians together to celebrate heritage and identity, build community and joy, create new virtual platforms, leverage assets like nature and place, and document our human stories. Learn more about The African American Museum in Philadelphia and how you can support their work at: aampmuseum.org.     The Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers program is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, individual donors to PHC, and an anonymous donor who offered additional funds for Philadelphia-based projects serving artists and small arts organizations.

news
Nov 17, 2020

As the national spotlight shined on Pennsylvania during the presidential election, young people at Sayre Public Library’s new Teen Reading Lounge used their virtual meetings as a space to make sense of the divisiveness they were seeing on the news and in social media.  Teen Reading Lounge is an award-winning, nontraditional book club created by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. With the support of trained facilitators, participants co-create a reading list and participate in conversations and civic engagement projects that connect to themes in their books.  The teens at Sayre centered their dialogues on books related to the election process, including The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert and The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson. During this polarized time, it can sometimes be difficult for young people to speak up and be heard, but Teen Reading Lounge cultivates an environment where they feel safe to share their ideas and opinions. “We all really enjoyed discussing The State of Us,” said Linda Zhang, a teen participant in the group. “It illustrates how a lot of us are feeling... We don’t have much longer until we vote ourselves.”  Emma White, a ninth grader, appreciated learning more about the election process. “It's really important to discuss why your vote matters, and how you should educate yourself on each of the candidates,” she said. The program is co-facilitated by Heather Manchester, director of Sayre Public Library, and Kayla Eberth, a local healthcare worker. They emphasized that they get as much out of the program as the teens do -- and their conversations and fun creative projects make them more optimistic about the future. "It's great to talk to the generation that's coming up,” said Manchester. “They might be the ones to actually do something to take action to change things. That makes me feel good about the world." “It gives me hope,” agreed Eberth. At a time of social distancing, Teen Reading Lounge has been a lifeline for young people eager for more social interaction and provides a unique opportunity for engaging conversations about issues that are important to them. “I’ve gotten to meet new people,” said Zhang. “I don't really get to have these discussions with my friends or family, so it's really nice to have a chance to do it.”   *** Teen Reading Lounge at Sayre Public Library meets biweekly on Mondays at 5PM. Contact TRLSayre@Gmail.com for more information. Teen Reading Lounge is made possible by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Department of Education, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, generous individuals, foundations, and corporations.

News
Oct 20, 2020

The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) invites communities in the Erie Arts & Culture and PA Route 6 Alliance service areas to apply to become a PA Heart & Soul Community.  Selected communities will receive up to $25,000 over a two year period from PHC. Selected communities may also be eligible for a $25,000 matching grant from our funding partners at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). (Note: requesting funding from DCED requires a separate application process which must be submitted by the local municipality.) In addition, selected communities will be matched with a Heart & Soul Coach who will deliver training and provide technical assistance valued at over $50,000 per year.    Community Heart & Soul® Community Heart & Soul® is a humanities-based, resident-driven community planning process that cultivates a shared sense of belonging among residents, engages them in thinking critically and creatively about community life and involves them in decision-making and development - all as a way to strengthen a town’s social, cultural and economic vibrancy.  PHC believes people can shape the future of their communities through the power of stories and strong relationships. Key to the process is learning what matters most by gathering hopes and ideas from residents. Story gathering can take many forms, from notes on a chalkboard to in-depth interviews. It all comes together to paint a picture of what matters most to residents. This becomes the basis for building a community’s shared desires, which informs a community’s unique action plan. As a result, communities become more connected, resourceful and resilient.    Eligibility Requirements This opportunity is only open to counties in the Erie Arts & Culture and PA Route 6 Alliance network. Eligible counties include: Crawford, Erie, Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Bradford, Wyoming,  Lackawanna, Wayne, Pike, Venango, Mercer, and Lawrence. This opportunity is for small towns with populations of 50,000 or under.  We are inviting proposals from communities that want to enhance planning and development efforts using the humanities-based Community Heart & Soul® process. Attending or watching at least one of the following Community Heart & Soul® informational webinars is required: October 6th (Meadville partners) and October 8th (Williamsport partners). PHC will support projects at municipal scale, meaning that applicants must demonstrate commitment from a municipality (city, township or borough) and at least two local partners. PHC can only accept one application per municipality. Either a municipality or non-profit partner must be prepared to act as the fiscal sponsor of grant funds.  Local partners will vary widely depending on the community and could include (but are not limited to): local nonprofits, economic development or planning agencies, grassroots community groups, arts and culture organizations, and school districts. Partners must be committed to providing robust resources (human, financial) to the process over a two-year period and demonstrate the capacity to work collaboratively. Important Dates:  Applications due: November 18, 2020  Shortlisted communities selected for virtual community conversations with selection committee: December 4, 2020 Virtual community conversations take place: early January 2021 Selected communities notified: by January 22, 2021 PA Community Heart & Soul® communities launch work: February 2021    How To Apply Communities must apply using PHC’s online system. To learn more about how to prepare your application, watch our recent webinar. Communities should first download the below PDF of the guidelines and application questions and prepare their answers in advance of submitting through the online system. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on November 18, 2020. Applicants must submit letters of support from the local municipality and any additional partners to demonstrate commitment to the process. Letters of support cannot be submitted using the online system and must be emailed to PHC by the deadline at program@pahumanities.org with the subject line “Heart & Soul [Community Name].” For inquiries about the Community Heart & Soul® program and completing your application, please contact Jen Danifo at jdanifo@pahumanities.org.  For assistance with technical challenges regarding the online application submission process, contact Brandon Woods at bwoods@pahumanities.org.

News
Oct 14, 2020

by Felicia Mycyk, Ambridge Heart & Soul We did it -- four events in one weekend! It was a challenge but we organized four Community Heart & Soul picnics in local parks throughout Ambridge.  We followed CDC recommended guidelines which allowed residents to have a low-pressure experience meeting our leadership team and learning about how Ambridge Heart & Soul will become the basis for building our community's shared values and unique action plan. I can honestly say, I love where we are at in this journey. Community Heart & Soul is about storytelling and how it can help communities build brighter futures together. The goal is to involve as many residents as possible, including those who are underrepresented and have not typically had a voice in their community's planning processes. During our picnics, residents were welcomed and encouraged to visit five stations to help set the stage for meaningful and transformative action plans. Each station had a different experience: Station one: Learn more about Ambridge Heart & Soul's upcoming events and put a pin on where you live on the large map. Station two: Traveling Chalkboard of Public Wishing.  Also, take-home bags of chalk with a note to go home and share you wishes on the sidewalks to post. Station three:  We all need to eat—free hotdogs, chips, and drinks. Station four: Create your custom banner by finishing the sentence, "I want Ambridge to be ..." Station five:  Let's help Ambridge Heat & Soul go viral with a resident-led video project.   It will be an uphill battle to earn people's trust in a town where it wasn't always easy to be heard. Fortunately, there is training and support from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the folks at Community Heart & Soul that will help everyone join together and collectively make a lasting impact. This is not new terrain for me as a longtime advocate for civic engagement in Ambridge. The Community Heart & Soul program builds on my own work of making meaningful change through conversations and storytelling. We are on our way to greater inclusivity and shared decision-making with these recent picnics, which engaged those missing voices and helped us learn more about what is important to our community. The next step is identifying shared values, called Heart & Soul Statements.  We are setting the stage for meaningful and transformative plans for action! I can already envision us doing the strategic group events -- that we have yet to plan but will be coming in the future -- because we laid the foundation and started the conversation. I see our Community Heart & Soul events allowing safe discussions where residents want to connect, converse, and answer real questions about their community in places like the library, parks, and more. Resident-driven starts with residents seeing themselves in positions to be heard!  Kudos to our team for being exactly what this community needs to make Ambridge what we all know it can be!   Relish the process because we will see results in each event moving forward. I'm pumped! Related Content Pennsylvania Heart & Soul Communities Community Heart & Soul (Orton Family Foundation) Pennsylvania Humanities Council And Partners Bring $450,000 In Funding, Training And Technical Support To Three Beaver County Towns Building Community While Social Distancing

event
Oct 14, 2020

On Oct. 14th, 2020, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) gathered a panel of seasoned professionals for a conversation about the logistics and legal issues around creating and presenting virtual content. Together they discussed producing, promoting, and presenting relevant content, intellectual property and copyright, and cybersecurity.  The 185 webinar attendees heard about technical requirements for livestream programming, marketing tips for virtual offerings, the impact of relatable content, how to secure themselves against cyber attacks, and the importance of copyright laws. Attendees from all across the arts and humanities sector tuned in from every corner of the state to heighten their skills in creating valuable virtual content. Please enjoy the full recording of the webinar below.  Webinar attendees heard from: Emmai Alaquiva, Emmy Award-winning film director, photographer, and composer, and Council Member, PCA, about creating and producing relevant virtual content, and artivism and digital allyship. Adam Riggar, Director of Production, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, about how to pivot your programming and the technical aspects and considerations of virtual content. LaNeshe Miller-White, Executive Director, Theatre Philadelphia, about marketing and monetizing your virtual content. Sandy Garfinkel, Member, Eckert Seamans Attorneys at Law & Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, about cybersecurity for digital and virtual content. Shane Valenzi, Associate, Eckert Seamans Attorneys at Law & Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, about intellectual property and copyright issues for digital and virtual content. The speakers showed how arts and cultural organizations across the commonwealth have opportunities to pivot and to reimagine themselves in a virtual environment. They explained how to seek out and adapt to new technologies and demands through new approaches and practice. The session closed with an engaging round of panelists answering questions from the audience. Related Content Reopening The Arts And Humanities Safely

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