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Equitable community projects ensure that everyone has a seat at the table -- especially those voices that are often missing. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) gathered a panel of seasoned activists and artists for a conversation on achieving greater inclusivity in community engagement practices using storytelling and art. Below you can watch the full video of Who’s missing? Cultivating inclusive community engagement through storytelling and art: Four communities from across the commonwealth were represented, sharing strategies, lessons from the field, practical tools, and answering inclusivity questions: Lancaster (Salina Almanzar, educator, writer, and social justice advocate) Artists are using inclusive engagement skills to create community informed public works of art in Lancaster’s Latinx community. Almanzar will highlight the Seed Project, a new, five-year initiative, focused on BIPOC area artists, aiming to foster relationships among artists and creatives in Southeast Lancaster City. Greater Carlisle (Cara Holtry Curtis, Archives and Library Director, Cumberland County Historical Society; Carmen James, Board President, Mt. Tabor Preservation Project) Black residents were reluctant to share their stories about an abandoned church built by a former enslaved person. But a story-gatherer from the Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul project persuaded the Gumby family to bravely share their story, which led to church preservation efforts leading to its eventual designation as a National Historic Landmark. Erie (Kelly Armor, Folklorist, Storyteller, Musician, Teaching Artist; Nibal Abd El Karim, Palestinian singer and educator) Armor will highlight an outreach program she developed with the Erie Children's Museum's staff, volunteers, and New American artists to share stories through public art projects. This program built on the work of the Old Songs New Opportunities program, which empowers newcomers to share their indigenous knowledge to benefit the wider community. Williamsport (Alice Trowbridge, Williamsport Heart & Soul Project Coordinator) The Heart & Soul team used resident driven principles to unearth missing voices and engage all residents to determine shared values for community planning. The results included surprising outcomes including the emergence of new leaders. The event was moderated by Ulysses Slaughter, PHC's Senior Project Director. Sarah Merritt, Director of PA Creative Communities at the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, delivered the introduction.
Community Heart & Soul continues to grow in Pennsylvania, with new sites just announced along the Route 6 corridor. Overseeing this active and diverse network is Jen Danifo, PHC’s dynamic Senior Program Officer, who is helping communities prioritize equity in community planning. The program uses the tools of the humanities – storytelling, community discussions, and analyses of a community’s history, culture, and trends – to build an equitable action plan for the future. Danifo was recently certified as the first Community Heart & Soul® coach in the state but has been involved with the program since 2015. She leads in-person and virtual training sessions on understanding community demographics, identifying and connecting with historically marginalized voices, and using storytelling to engage all residents in planning and development. The official Community Heart & Soul organization, based in Vermont, celebrated Danifo’s certification virtually, and included video submissions from some of the community members she worked with. "We are so grateful for the connections that you've allowed us to make with other communities and for the love and support you've given us in these difficult times," said Autumn Vogel, past coordinator of My Meadville, in one of the celebration videos. As a new coach, she is now responsible for guiding three Heart & Soul communities step-by-step through the program: Dillsburg, Upper Chichester, and Cameron County. During the pandemic, this has meant lots of one-on-one time in Zoom video calls but that hasn’t slowed things down. “Jen is the best coach, mentor, superstar, and friend to all,” said Barbara Kelley, Upper Chichester Heart & Soul Coordinator. “She has resources in abundance, advice anytime of the day, and is a great asset to us.” Danifo says she just appreciates helping people put the humanities into action to make meaningful changes in their communities. “It’s been a real joy to see communities tap into their own assets to build sustainable, unique plans for their future,” said Danifo. “ PHC and the Community Heart & Soul program teaches residents to use humanities techniques to build a better understanding of communities, their history and to name and identify barriers to inclusive, equitable and sustainable resident participation in community planning and development." See some of Jen Danifo’s most memorable Community Heart & Soul moments below in her own words. Upper Chichester Heart & Soul Gathers to Discuss their Stories “A major milestone in the process is the community coming together to review resident stories exploring lived experience in their town. Not only does this build understanding and empathy among neighbors, it allows residents to identify and discuss what a community collectively values. This becomes the basis for a community’s action plan. Over 100 residents came together in February 2020 – right before the pandemic hit." Cameron County Residents Work Together to Include Everyone in the Planning Process “Community Heart & Soul is unique in that it puts power in the hands of the residents and, in many ways, provides a crash-course on how decision-making power is shared (or not) in communities, and how residents can work together and with local government to forge a path forward. This is not easy! You need a dedicated and resilient team like the one pictured here in Cameron County." Greater Carlisle Celebrates Hidden Voices "The process of story-gathering – asking residents to share their history in a community and what they value about where they live, can be transformative for some communities. The group in Greater Carlisle discovered the story of the Gumby family, their connection to the Mt. Tabor AME church – literally hidden in a field for years – and a history of ignoring African-American experiences and contributions to the community. Openly discussing this hasn’t solved everything, but it’s led to some great efforts to celebrate the lives of Black residents. Recently, the borough issued a resolution apologizing for the historic marginalization of this community. The church was also added to the National Register of Historic Places." Williamsport’s Lady of Light Project & Celebration "Williamsport, one of our pilot communities in 2015, has continued to find ways to embed story-gathering into planning processes happening in the community. Local creative nonprofit, FactoryWorks, used the process to create a community mosaic in an old, repurposed factory. The team consulted with the Heart of Williamsport group to learn the process of interviewing and collecting stories and artifacts from local residents. This became the inspiration for the piece and the artifacts were incorporated into the physical design." Ambridge Prioritizes Connection During the Pandemic "Three communities in Beaver County launched Heart & Soul just as the pandemic shut down towns across the state. Despite this, the team in Ambridge found creative ways to engage residents at a time when so many people needed it. Building on a history of Ambridge “connection,” the team visited four parks with a huge chalkboard in early fall and asked community members to share what they loved and hoped for in their communities. "
“Rocks,” “Level 10,” “V/TO,” and “Right Person, Right Seat.” A new language and way of doing business has taken hold at PHC and it is all part of an effort to further enhance its operations. Whether they realize it or not, every organization has an operating system -- a way that human energy is guided to solve problems, prioritize, communicate, and lead. An effective and efficient system is important because it helps employees achieve goals and put the organization’s vision and mission into action. With an ambitious strategic plan and a big vision to be advocates and leaders for the humanities in PA, PHC wanted to prioritize next steps, clarify roles, and identify the changes needed to achieve its mission. Core to that is culture -- determining how the organization works together and what it most values. After carefully evaluating its own internal needs, PHC’s leadership team turned to the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS) for a reboot. EOS provides industry-tested concepts, practical tools, and coach-led learning modules that help all employees accomplish meaningful and rewarding work to the best of their abilities. These new resources are especially important to PHC as a statewide organization leading complex tasks in partnership with communities across the state, as well as administering numerous emergency relief grants and educational programs. “It is teaching us how to organize our human energy around priorities to help things move forward,” said Brandon Woods, PHC’s Operations Manager. “The goal of EOS is to get everyone rowing in the same direction.” An organization-wide implementation of EOS does not happen overnight and starts with undergoing an in-depth journey with a trained consultant. For that, PHC connected with Monica Justice, Certified EOS Implementer® with The Allele Group, who worked pro bono with senior staff members virtually throughout 2020. Justice says EOS accomplishes three main things: Helps leaders align on their vision for the organization and have that vision shared by the entire team. Provides tools that support focus, discipline, and accountability so the right stuff is always getting done to move the vision forward. Fosters a high-performing, fun-loving team who share the same core values. Part of the EOS training focused on identifying, planning, and executing PHC’s highest priorities projects -- called “Rocks.” Rocks are assessed within 90-day timeframes and answer the question, ‘What is most important right now?’ Longer term goals are set at the 1, 3, and 10 year marks. Senior staff also worked with Justice to better structure their meetings and created a set of core values to help guide day-to-day operations. “Since beginning to implement EOS, I've observed the PHC leadership team gain greater clarity on their roles, improve their ability to predict and execute on their plans through quarterly Rock setting, and work through issues together as a team,” said Justice. The EOS model involves six key components that are progressively strengthened in order for an organization to improve its performance: vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these six components, and the developed core values, snapped into action as senior staff worked as a team to set goals and marshall PHC’s resources to address the emerging crisis. “It was really special for me, as their Implementer, to see the core values get more dialed in over time as the PHC team navigated COVID19,” said Justice. “They say it takes a crisis for you to see what people are really made of.” The EOS system arrived just in time to support two new major initiatives starting in 2021: an organizational equity journey with Promoting Good LCC and a strategic rebranding with Paragraph Inc. “It is exciting to watch us increase traction on our key priorities,” said Laurie Zierer, PHC’s executive director. “PHC has always performed at a high level but EOS is giving us the tools to accomplish even more as we support people-centered humanities projects throughout the state of Pennsylvania.” EOS will be rolled out to all PHC staff and board members throughout 2021. Additional Resources EOS Worldwide website "What the Heck is EOS?" book
In 2019, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council partnered with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to provide funding to communities in the Commonwealth designated as Community Heart & Soul towns. The goal of the grant opportunity was to sustain resident involvement in community planning and development and center storytelling in the process of celebrating the art and culture of each community. Four communities received a $2,000 grant to co-develop projects: Greater Carlisle (Cumberland County), Upper Chichester (Delaware County), Meadville (Crawford County) and Williamsport (Lycoming County). Each community used the process of collaborative storytelling to tap into the history, memories, and hopes of residents. Undeterred by a global pandemic, these communities designed projects that provided a space for healing injustices, celebrating human connection, centering inclusivity, and harnessing the creativity of residents. Carlisle To raise awareness about the historic Lincoln Cemetery, the Cumberland County Historical Society (CCHS) worked with the Greater Carlisle community, descendants of individuals buried in the cemetery, and local artists to recognize the over 600 people buried at Lincoln dating back to the 1900s. For years, the cemetery, which was a final resting place for many African-American residents, was neglected and ignored. There was no official recognition of this sacred land and headstones were removed or vandalized. Funding from PHC and PCA supported an effort to tell the story of the cemetery and restore honor to the individuals buried there. CCHS worked with community members and family descendents to design public projects. Residents wrote the names of the 676 individuals buried in the cemetery on colorful ribbons and tied them to the fence surrounding the land. The project culminated in the development of a permanent mural, led by local artist Jim Griffith, to honor those forgotten individuals. “This project led to renewed discussion about the history of the Lincoln cemetery. The borough recently issued an official resolution of apology for the treatment of this cemetery and the African-American community. There are still wounds that need to heal and stories that need to be shared but these projects are one step in the right direction.” ~ Cara Holtry Curtis, archives and library director at CCHS Upper Chichester Upper Chichester Heart & Soul worked with a local artist, Veronica Batter, to design a series of family-friendly art activities celebrating the diversity of individuals and public spaces in the community. A partnership between the library, the township, and the business association, families were invited to pick up rock painting kits and participate in three painting workshops to design projects that represented themselves, their families and their communities. Families were encouraged to visit their local park with their rock creation and take a picture - a safe, socially distanced activity in the time of the pandemic. Not only did this provide an opportunity for intergenerational programming for the residents of Upper Chi, it also raised awareness of the many recreational spaces in the community - a hope residents expressed in stories collected in 2019 as part of the Heart & Soul process. The activities were so successful, the community is planning more for 2021. “We asked families to consider what matters most to them and their lives and to create something in response to that...During the pandemic, this was a meaningful activity that celebrated our community, the spaces we gather and the people who live in it.” ~ Barbara Kelley, assistant township manager Meadville Inspired by community ideas and drawings, the Art & Environment Initiative brought together a team of community artists to design a vibrant relief mural on the ARC of Crawford County’s Snodgrass Building, which provides housing for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Part of a much larger redevelopment of the entire space - this mural and the collaboration among artists, residents and local nonprofits - builds on Meadville’s Heart & Soul process by highlighting the inclusivity and the connectedness that makes the community so special. The cheerful addition to the side of the building features flowers, a butterfly and a bee, and was created from pieces of laser cut aluminum and installed by former Allegheny College art professor Amara Geffen and other Meadville volunteers. Now, it stands as a shining example of community-led design and placemaking that will hopefully bring community members together for years to come. The title of the mural will be voted on by community members in 2021. “The Snodgrass mural project is part of an ongoing and more comprehensive project in downtown Meadville... The Arc’s primary goal is to create a community venue where Arc clients, and others with intellectual disabilities, can join the community-at-large in safe, inclusive, local arts and culture events.” ~ Amara Geffen, project coordinator Williamsport With the support of PCA and PHC’s funding, a union between personal storytelling and intricate mosaic brought to life two stunning pillars that now permanently tower in Williamsport, PA. Heart of Williamsport, one of PHC’s first Heart & Soul communities, worked with FactoryWorks, a local creative nonprofit, to gather and share stories and memories of the Pajama Factory, a historic factory compound on the edge of Williamsport. Local residents participated in the design process and also contributed memorabilia incorporated into the finished piece. Local artist Dai En and a group of community volunteers used these stories and memories as inspiration to create the mosaic at the entrance to Pajama Factory. In summer 2020, the mosaic named “The Lady of Light'' was unveiled at an outdoor community celebration on the Pajama Factory’s grounds, serving as an opportunity to bring together the community during the isolating time of the pandemic. “Story-sharing is a powerful tool for bringing people together and strengthening the ties within a community,” says Jeannette Carter, project coordinator. “The six themes that grew out of our storygathering process - creativity, community, supportive environment, inclusion, growth, and gratitude - are widely shared in the creative community of Factory Works and the Pajama Factory. All of these were evident in the project and the final piece created by Dai En.” “Seeing something this beautiful coming from a collection of personal stories and experiences connects people, evokes pride, and instills a sense of belonging.” ~ Alice Trowbridge, Heart of Williamsport Coordinator In the News... Art Project Honoring the Dead Buried in Carlisle's Lincoln Cemetery Nears Completion - The Sentinel - 10/27/2020 Lincoln Cemetery Ribbons - The Carlisle Sentinel - 06/20/2020 Installation of Snodgrass Mural - Meadville, PA Lady of Light - PA Humanities Council - 09/16/2020 Share Your Heart Stories - Gallery Factory Works - 02/2020
Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG) in Bethlehem 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. LUAG was founded in 1926 as the centralized fine art collection of Lehigh University, overseeing over 16,000 works of art from diverse time periods and cultures, seven galleries on three campuses, two art study centers, and an outdoor sculpture collection of over 50 works. In the spring of 2020, LUAG migrated its many exhibitions and programs online and launched LUAG@Home, a new program that expanded community access during the pandemic. As part of this initiative, they developed lectures, hands-on workshops and family days to reach audiences of all ages and provide opportunities to connect with others during times of isolation. “The PHC Pop-up Grant provided support to help LUAG launch LUAG@Home,” said Stacie Brennan, Curator of Education. “We were proud to collaborate with community partners to develop resources that helped to engage audiences of all backgrounds in relevant and timely topics and provide opportunities to hear from diverse voices in the community.” With PHC funding, LUAG worked with the SouthSide Arts District to mount an outdoor version of their exhibition Doing Democracy along a 1.9 mile stretch of the South Bethlehem Greenway. The event was a community celebration of democracy, exploring an array of photographs from the George Stephanopoulos Collection that shine a light on significant events of the 20th century and the present—featuring world leaders, the media, politicians, civil rights movements, and everyday Americans. It included 22 reproductions of photographs from the main exhibition, accompanied by a free digital guide of 20 videos produced by Lehigh students about the artwork. This event allowed LUAG to bring its exhibitions out into the community, reach new audiences, and connect its physical and virtual spaces in an accessible and innovative way. At a time of social distancing, dynamic and engaging programming and events by cultural organizations like Lehigh University Art Galleries 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 LUAG at: https://luag.lehigh.edu/ 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.
PHC And Partners Bringing Up To $600,000 In Funding, Training And Technical Support To Carbondale, Youngsville, Wyoming County, and Tidioute The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the PA Route 6 Alliance to support Carbondale, Youngsville, Wyoming County, and Tidioute along their paths to becoming stronger, more vibrant communities using Community Heart & Soul®, a humanities-based approach to community and economic development. Additional support is provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Through this unique partnership among government agencies and state and regional nonprofits, PHC is providing training and technical support valued at an estimated $50,000 per year to each town in partnership with the Community Heart & Soul national staff. In addition, the communities may receive up to $25,000 per year in combined funding over the course of two years from PHC, DCED, PA Route 6 Alliance, and DCNR for a total investment valued at up to $150,000 per community. Since 2015, PHC has worked to bring Community Heart & Soul®, a model originally pioneered by Orton Family Foundation, to communities across Pennsylvania. Carbondale, Youngsville, Wyoming County, and Tidioute join the towns of Ambridge, Beaver Falls, Rochester, Dillsburg, Upper Chichester, Cameron County, Greater Carlisle, Mount Holly Springs, Meadville, and Williamsport. “The humanities have proven a powerful tool for community and economic development in Pennsylvania,” said Laurie Zierer, PHC’s executive director. “Despite the present challenges, our resilient Community Heart & Soul towns are finding innovative and safe ways to engage residents, build relationships, honor homegrown talents and assets, and reclaim and reshape their communities.” “Our mission at DCED is to provide resources to help our communities flourish,” said Rick Vilello, DCED’s Deputy Secretary of Community Affairs and Development. “This partnership with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Heart and Soul project will serve to strengthen efforts already underway in these communities, making them better places to live, work, and play.” PHC will provide overall training to the Route 6 cohort on using the humanities as a tool for community planning. Communities will learn how to gather residents’ stories, develop unique town values, and create an action plan for the future. In addition, each town is matched with an official Community Heart & Soul® coach, a trained professional tasked with mentoring the community through the planning process. As a result, communities work together to become more connected, resourceful, and resilient. "With its vast natural, cultural, scenic, recreational, and historical resources, the Pennsylvania Route 6 Heritage Corridor is primed for growth," said Candace Hillyard, executive director of the PA Route 6 Alliance. "I am thrilled to see Community Heart & Soul® come to the region, which will put residents first in planning for their future.” Called “one of America’s most scenic drives” by National Geographic, the Route 6 Heritage Corridor traverses the northern tier of Pennsylvania from Ohio to New York. At over 400 miles, it is the longest highway segment in the Commonwealth. Community Heart & Soul® will start in all four locations in March of 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.
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?" livestreamed on Thursday, January 14th from 4-5:30PM. 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.
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.
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.