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Days after a gunman opened fire at a Parkland, Florida school in February, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others, the Teen Reading Lounge group at the rural Priestley-Forsyth Memorial Library in Northumberland met to discuss Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. “The students shared that they felt like Alice, tumbling down a rabbit hole into a world they didn’t understand,” said Youth Services Coordinator Kim King. The stories and the conversations that were sparked helped the teens process their feelings of helplessness, frustration and anger. They also led to larger discussions about school safety and the need to address problems faced by young people. Constructed in the early 19th century as a two-story home, later to be a tavern and then a medical office, the Priestley-Forsyth Memorial Library was finally established in 1925 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Its cozy, book-packed corridors and quirky mix of antiquarian architecture and modern amenities have made it an ideal setting for teens, some who experience social anxiety at school or have learning differences, to feel safe exploring books together and diving deep into sensitive personal and political issues. For some of the teens, the experience has played a big role in their social development. “[Teen Reading Lounge] is a good way to go out and actually meet people and discuss things that you otherwise probably wouldn't discuss,” said Kendra Harter, an eighth grader at Shikellamy Middle School. “I went from being really socially awkward and an introvert to not being as much of an introvert.” With the support of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Teen Reading Lounge was established at the Priestley-Forsyth Memorial Library in 2014. The current facilitator is Renee Albertson, a certified Reading Specialist, who takes special care in giving individual attention to students’ reading needs and letting them develop their own community guidelines to govern the space. She also supports the teens’ civic engagement ideas that are inspired by their readings -- recent projects have included a food drive, helping rescue dogs and cleaning up public spaces. Albertson excels at helping young people make meaningful connections between literature and contemporary issues. When the Parkland shooting happened, she found that the dissociative prose of Lewis Carroll, and Alice's bewilderment in Wonderland, helped the teens express their own confusing torrent of feelings. Kim King has noticed participants in the program reporting significant improvements in school and even stopping by the library on their own to pick up books for personal reading. It was in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting tragedy that she became convinced of the power of Teen Reading Lounge to create a supportive and relevant environment. “It’s a great way for libraries to reach all kinds of kids but especially those that are on the fringes,” said King. “There’s so much more that comes out of Teen Reading Lounge than reading a book.” Teen Reading Lounge is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Using ground penetrating radar, Greater Carlisle Heart and Soul and a team from Dickinson College are trying to locate unmarked graves at an historic but abandoned African American church in Mount Holly Springs. The Mount Tabor Church on Cedar Street is nearly 150 years old and in poor structural condition but it has newly appreciated cultural significance in a community that is now exploring its preservation options. Historic artifacts have been placed into storage and a laser scanner was used to create an accurate map of the site. Recently added to the Cumberland County Historic Register, the church has assumed its rightful place in local history. This investigation is the result of the broader project by Greater Carlisle Heart and Soul, with the support of PHC, to gather stories, collect history and identify community assets. Greater Carlisle is putting the humanities at the heart of their community development efforts and reaping rewards -- including, discovering cultural treasures hidden in plain sight. Watch the video, “Hidden History: Searching for Lost African-American Grave Sites” produced by our partner The Orton Family Foundation.
“Miss Diane, forget movies, I only want to go to the theater,” one student told Diane Sandefur, Director of the University of Pennsylvania's TRiO Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) Program, on the drive back from an evening performance at People's Light Theater in Malvern. For many veterans in the program, these trips to theaters and museums, supported by Pennsylvania Humanities Council, are wholly new experiences. They can be eye-opening and emotionally stirring, leading to conversations about culture, history and justice. This unique approach to putting veterans on track for college is often a catalyst for meaningful personal, and broader community, change. University of Pennsylvania’s VUB program, which is supported by the US Department of Education, is an invaluable service for the region’s veterans, providing them with the academic skills and experiences necessary to excel in college. Towards this end they have been highly successful -- 90% of a recently graduated class went on to enroll in postsecondary courses. Veterans in the program are often first generation college students and most are facing economic hardship. “The age range is from early 20s to mid-60s and to be eligible for VUB veterans must be from a disenfranchised background,” said Sandefur. The curriculum is what you might expect from a traditional college preparatory program, including instruction in mathematics, science, foreign language and humanities. What makes Penn VUB special is the cultural experiences, mentorship and counseling services, along with the camaraderie and support of fellow veterans in the program. Since 2015, Pennsylvania Humanities Council has worked with Penn VUB to expand the humanities curriculum and activities for veterans in the program, initially providing funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities' Standing Together initiative. A recent PHC-sponsored trip included a visit to Wharton Escherick Museum and tickets to The Diary of Anne Frank at the People's Light Theater. This critically acclaimed production tells Anne Frank's harrowing story in a way that illuminates modern problems of polarization. People's Light intended it to be "a ritual of remembrance, an act of defiance, and a source of solace and light." For the veterans, the performance was captivating and spoke with clarity to their own concerns about discrimination. “Never in my life have I enjoyed a play,” recalled one student after the show. “It was beautiful.” Coupled with the play was a lively panel discussion on Jewish history and social justice that included Rabbi Arthur Waskow (The Shalom Center), Reverend Gregory Holston (Partnership for Working Families), and Reverend Mark Tyler (Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church). The veterans asked pointed questions to the panelists about issues they struggle with every day: racism, equity and justice. “The conversation about the slavery of the Jewish people, and the traditions and celebrations of their freedom, was intertwined with the struggles of the black population,” said Sandefur, who accompanied the group. VUB students read Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and later went on to further immerse themselves in Jewish culture by participating in the Annual Freedom Seder at the National Museum of American Jewish History. This event has its roots in the 1969 Freedom Seder that took place during the Civil Rights Movement and it is an opportunity to share an evening of food and stories of liberation at the community Passover table. Many VUB students find such multifaceted engagement with the humanities uplifting and inspiring in the moment, but it also contributes to the veterans’ later success in postsecondary education and in their lives more broadly. Exposure to the region’s cultural assets opens up worlds of exploration, uncovers learning opportunities and reveals nascent interests. Within the supportive community of Penn VUB, veterans are able to heal past wounds, build confidence inside and outside the classroom and make meaningful changes in their lives and their communities. Students are challenged to think deeply about their experiences and express them in ways that strengthen skills in college-level writing and verbal communication. The veterans themselves are vocal advocates of VUB and the data supports their enthusiasm -- after graduating, most participants had improved academic performance based on standardized testing. Pennsylvania Humanities Council is proud to partner with Penn VUB to enhance a humanities curriculum that fosters both personal and academic growth for the region’s veterans. “PHC has afforded the VUB students with experiences that, for some, did not know existed,” said Diane Sandefur. “For other students the experiences provided by PHC were previously thought to have been a far reach and something they could only dream of attending." Related Content For Philadelphia-Area Veterans, the Humanities Build Academic Skills--and a Path to Positive Change Penn Veterans Upward Bound Partnership
Learn how youth organizations and libraries can promote positive youth development skills through the humanities and civic engagement through this latest installment of the Teen Reading Lounge webinar series. Teen Reading Lounge is built on the belief that the humanities and the skills they teach provide a pathway to positive development in young people. In this webinar, youth development experts and Teen Reading Lounge practitioners explore how the award-winning program helps young people cultivate 21st century skills essential for success, develop a stronger understanding of their own identity and of different perspectives, and identify solutions to challenges in their communities. The webinar was produced by PHC and moderated by Valerie Adams-Bass, Assistant Professor of Youth and Social Innovations in the Department of Human Services at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. Practitioner panel guests include: Jo Bradley, OST Director at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School Kimberly King, Youth Services Coordinator &Assistant Director at Priestley Forsyth Memorial Library Shakira King, Activities Director at Sunrise of Philadelphia Inc. @ South Philadelphia High School Click here to watch the webinar. Related Content Outreach & Recruitment: A Teen Reading Lounge Webinar Teen Reading Lounge Expands to OST Sites, Makes Longer-Term Investments in Libraries Data Show that Teen Reading Lounge Inspires Positive Action
On March 20 MacArthur Fellow and National Humanities Medalist Anna Deavere Smith led a Master Class in Empathy with 120 Philadelphia-area leaders, including former mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Richard Ross. The class effectively launched “Move in Closer,” a series of activities designed to celebrate Leadership Philadelphia’s 60th anniversary. Founded in 1959, Leadership Philadelphia mobilizes and connects the talent of the private sector to serve the community. It is the original and flagship model for 400 such organizations across the country. The year-long sweep of “Move in Closer” activities is partially funded in partnership with PHC through a National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman’s Grant. During the Master Class, Smith guided participants in using what she calls “empathic imagination.” One exercise asked them to pair off to ask each other “Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? Have you ever been close to death? Do you know the circumstances of your birth?” and then perform back their partners’ answers. “What an incredible experience,” said PHC Executive Director Laurie Zierer, who participated in the class as a Leadership Philadelphia alum. “By sharing skills connected to her deep theater expertise, and teaching us to apply them to our lives and communities, Anna Deveare Smith put the humanities in action to open our minds, and reveal new horizons of possibility.” Over the next year “Move In Closer” activities will be documented and produced for broadcast by Philadelphia public radio station WHYY and covered by the Philadelphia Inquirer on multiple platforms. (Read Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Ronnie Polaneczky’s account of the Master Class here here and Julie Zeglen’s recap for Generocity here.)
In early March, a group of PHC staff and board members traveled to Washington for Humanities on the Hill, an annual opportunity to meet with members of Congress and make a persuasive case for the value and impact of the humanities. The goal of this national event is to advocate for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)—and in turn for state humanities councils like PHC. The FY2020 NEH budget request is $167.5 million, including $53 million for state humanities councils. This funding is crucial for PHC, which receives no annual support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. “Humanities on the Hill offers the chance to describe the incredible impact of the humanities in Pennsylvania, and to request the resources we need to sustain our work,” said PHC executive director Laurie Zierer. “PHC raises additional program support from state and federal agencies, private foundations, corporations, and individuals, but NEH funding is our lifeblood.” Zierer was joined in Washington by PHC staff members Mary Ellen Burd and Donna Scheuerle and PHC board members Christina Saler and Jane Sheffield. In conversations with 17 members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation or their staffers, the PHC team chronicled the role the humanities play in educating citizens and strengthening communities in Pennsylvania, highlighting PHC’s Teen Reading Lounge, Pennsylvania Heart & Soul Communities, the Chester Made initiative and our partnership with the University of Pennsylvania's Veterans Upward Bound program. The group also reported on the humanities’ economic impact. Pennsylvania’s 4,500 humanities organizations—from libraries and historical societies to museums and community arts and culture groups—together generate $1.6 billion in revenue annually. The strength of the humanities sector in Pennsylvania, and the impact it has on local residents, is due in large part to consistently strong federal funding. The National Endowment for the Humanities provided $24.4 million in grants in Pennsylvania over the past five years. PHC invested an additional $1.1 million and leveraged 150 partnerships to keep the humanities strong. “We leverage $5.69 for every federal dollar we receive,” Zierer said. “Through building strong partnerships across sectors and working collaboratively with other funders, we ensure that NEH is making a sound investment in Pennsylvania.” For the third year in a row, President Trump’s budget proposal requests elimination of NEH and other federal cultural agencies, which would put PHC's work and the entire humanities sector in jeopardy. Please contact your elected officials today to describe the impact of the humanities in your community and to advocate for strong NEH and PHC funding!
The Federation for State Humanities Councils recently awarded PHC a grant for $35,693 to facilitate a community dialogue in Chester and Carlisle, focused on understanding the roles that journalists and residents can play in telling a community’s story and motivating positive change. Through storytelling and conversation, the goal is for journalists to gain insight into the ways that residents and grassroots organizations can help reveal the complex truths of their community. Likewise, the project aims for community members – including residents, activists, artists, and local historians – to better understand the tools and perspectives journalists bring to exploring these same subjects. This grant comes from the Federation’s “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” program, which seeks to examine how journalism and the humanities can enrich understanding of local and national issues and inspire an engaged citizenry. A collaboration with the Pulitzer Prizes, the grant requires collaboration with a Pulitzer Prize winner or finalist to explore these issues. One project will build on the community-driven efforts through Carlisle Heart & Soul to preserve local sites of African American history and struggle, including an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church and cemetery that was founded by a freed slave as well as an Underground Railroad and Civil War trail. Community dialogue will focus on contextualizing historical racism in Carlisle and exploring how it informs present-day relationships, as well as how these issues are covered in local media. The other project connects to Chester Made, a collaborative led by PHC, local artists, the City of Chester, and Widener University. One of the recurrent themes we have encountered in Chester is resident concern about negative media coverage that focuses on violence rather than stories about citizens making positive change. Our project will organize a community discussion around these issues of image and the role that residents can have in changing that narrative. In both Carlisle and Chester, we anticipate holding facilitated community meetings later this year. The meetings will be recorded for broadcast on partner radio stations, podcast release, and segments for local, regional, and national radio, ensuring that this work has a broad reach. This program is part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry. We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.
Beginning this past fall, I have had the pleasure of being PHC’s communication’s intern. Given my rhetoric and public advocacy background, I’m interested in exploring community development and the importance of creating transparency among a group of people. A peer exchange weekend with the Chester Made initiative gave me the opportunity. Chester Made is a civic engagement project that brings together various residents from artists and local leaders to entrepreneurs with a common goal of changing the perception of Chester and building a stronger community. In fall of 2016, the Chester Made team--staff of PHC, Widener University, the City of Chester, and artists from Chester-- travelled to Chicago, Illinois, and Gary, Indiana, for a peer exchange hosted by the Illinois Humanities Council. The purpose of the exchange was to bring people together with similar goals for their communities, motivated to use their skills to transform through the arts. The 2017 exchange gave the Chester Made team the opportunity to share their home and their art in a similar way. (Watch a video summary of the 2017 exchange.) Being a city that has been affected by economic turmoil with a major industry relocating, Chester residents have a goal to revitalize their home. Prior to attending the Chester Made Exchange weekend events, I had not known much about the history of the city or its role in the making of America. By the end of the evening, I had discovered not only some historical facts but what makes the people of Chester so special. The day’s events began with breakfast, followed by a meet and greet between artists from the three cities and partners of the programs. We then had the opportunity to see more of Chester beyond the event location. The driving tour included Chester gems such as Calvary Baptist Church (where Martin Luther King Jr. first began his years preaching), Deshong Park, and a museum on the Avenue of the States. Later that evening, we enjoyed a curated dinner with guest presentations on individual projects by Gary and Chicago guests. As a new witness to Chester Made’s strives in civic engagement, I sat down with a few guests from Gary and Chicago to ask them about their reactions to what they had witnessed during the weekend’s events. The first person I talked to was Krystal Wilson, a poet and artist from Gary, Indiana. She wears many hats that vary from youth poetry program facilitation to creative directing for musicians. She explained her love for the art that she has seen as a part of the exchange experience, stating, “Chester artists have their own distinct thumbprint that adds to the uniqueness of the city with an unashamed urbanism.” Rather than simply being an individualistic process, Chester cultivates various talents for the benefit of the art and the community. Krystal believes that type of structure is what they are trying to achieve in her hometown. When I asked if her community could benefit from a project like Chester Made, she responded, “I definitely think Gary could benefit. It was inspiring to see a platform created for both the youth and adults. Not only as an artist, but just as a member of a community, it is important to come together and show that you care about the direction.” Sam Salvesen, a redevelopment fellow with the City of Gary, was also among the guests. Being that he is not an artist himself, I was curious to know why he was interested in Chester. Sam responded, “On paper, Gary and Chester have a lot in common. Having similar issues to Gary, I wanted to know what are they doing about it? I wanted to see how Gary could profit off of what Chester is doing.” I believe there is much power in residents taking control of their own destiny. Sam expressed admiration for Chester artists in this regard, saying, “Artists are more than just artists, they are community builders. I appreciate how they are building this city with their own imprint.” After engaging with residents and community builders during the peer exchange, I believe Chester Made is not only an initiative to bring residents together but a motto for the city and the embodiment of what it means to be a part of Chester. It gives people something to “sink their teeth into,” as Greg Irvin, a Chester resident put it. Devon Walls, artistic director of Chester Made, exemplifies what it means to be Chester Made. He is an artist that was born and raised in Chester. Devon has been key in developing spaces such as his Artist Warehouse, the Chester Made Exploration Zone, and the revamped MJ Freed Theater. They are all spaces for educating young people, as well as their parents, and encouraging them to express themselves through various art forms. Devon also invested time and money into Chester Made, a project he believed in, for the people he believes in. He was once told that people will not go to Chester to buy art because of the demographic, but programs within Chester Made prove them wrong. Residents of all ages create works of art all while uplifting their community and discussing how to bring about change. There is an inherent community driven nature within Chester Made. By the end of the peer exchange evening, I was in complete awe of what I had witnessed. I saw the potential of what the city could become and how transformative a model such as Chester Made could be for other communities on a national level. There are so many things in the making that are very inspiring for urban areas, such as creating an arts district, a sense of community, and wealth being established by and for the people. Witnessing the 500 block of Avenue of the States was ground breaking for me. This location is the hub of Chester Made activities and home to the Chester Made Exploration Zone. It is an entire block of African American owned businesses and that is so very rare and I honestly could not name one prior to visiting. That is the definition excellence. That is molding a community from the inside out. Nangorlee Demenwu is a Communications Intern at PHC. She is a recent graduate of Temple University with a Bachelors of Arts in Strategic Communication, concentrating in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy, minoring in Digital Media in Technology, a collaboration of communications and computer information science. Nangorlee has worked on a student run campaign to spread awareness of food insecurity on Temple University’s campus. This four month project exposed the issues of hunger on college campuses through seminars, social events, media, and fundraising. She then took this issue with her as she studied abroad in Dhrangadhra, Gujarat, India, this past summer. There, she worked on a mini documentary on food insecurity, nutrition, and general health of local citizens. Beyond her food insecurity initiatives, she has served as a board member of an organization called Black Diamonds Union. Their goal is creating after school outreach programs at elementary schools in North Philadelphia surrounding Temple University.
The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has expanded its award-winning Teen Reading Lounge program to twelve sites, including eight libraries across the state and four out-of-school-time sites in Philadelphia. The primary goal is to leverage the humanities as a tool for positive youth development, with an emphasis on engaging low-income youth and youth of color. "Traditional programs for teens follow the 'if you build it, they will come' model," said Laurie Zierer, Pennsylvania Humanities Council executive director. "Teen Reading Lounge is different because we start by asking teens what’s important and interesting to them. We’ve seen some very positive outcomes—and as we move forward and expand the program, we want to ensure its participants are as diverse as the population of our state." First launched in 2010, Teen Reading Lounge is an interactive book club for youth ages 12-18. Through youth-focused book discussions and hands-on projects, teens come together to explore their communities while building valuable 21st century learning skills. Beginning in fall 2017, PHC re-envisioned Teen Reading Lounge as a longer-term investment in public libraries that focuses on building capacity to engage teens through humanities-based programming. PHC will provide eight participating libraries with funding, training and technical support through an extended commitment from 2017 to 2019, working with library leadership as well as frontline staff and volunteers. The funds PHC provide will cover program expenses and an outside facilitator—a local professional with expertise in working with youth who can help library staff develop and deliver the program. Beyond direct funds, library staff will also receive training in working with facilitators and teens to design a program that’s meaningful for their communities. Since its inception, Teen Reading Lounge has run in more than 80 communities and engaged more than 1,000 youth in rural, urban, and suburban areas across the Commonwealth. Participants show improved skills in the following areas: communication; interpersonal relations; critical thinking, problem solving and creativity; literacy and media. 85% of teens say they would participate in the program again, and 80% report they would tell their friends to join. Increasingly PHC has worked with Teen Reading Lounge sites to design programs that encourage teens to become active in their community and improve skills directly related to civic engagement. As a result, 60% of recent participants said that they would help site staff develop new programs for teens, and 40% said that Teen Reading Lounge made them want to get involved in activities that would improve their community, school, or neighborhood. In addition, PHC has partnered with the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) to launch Teen Reading Lounge in out-of-school-time (OST) sites across the city. DHS funds OST programming for over 16,000 youth each year. In this initial pilot cycle, DHS identified four OST sites that are a good fit for Teen Reading Lounge from among the more than 70 providers and hundreds of programs it oversees. PHC has provided the Teen Reading Lounge framework and experienced facilitators to train provider staff and help implement the program. Through all Teen Reading Lounge sites, in all settings and all geographic regions of the state, PHC is committed to improving access and equity in education. Pennsylvania is a “regressive” education funder (meaning the poorest schools receive the fewest resources), and in recent years PHC has shifted the focus of Teen Reading Lounge to engage students who are disproportionately harmed by this inequity: youth from low-income backgrounds and youth of color. A recent program evaluation shows that, among all Teen Reading Lounge participants, these youth are most likely to show improved skills and a stronger sense of identity. All sites participating in the 2017-18 Teen Reading Lounge program currently serve low-income youth, and PHC will provide all with further training in engaging and working with diverse and low-income youth. Sites hosting a Teen Reading Lounge in the 2017-2018 program year are listed below by county: Beaver Baden Memorial Library and Laughlin Memorial Library (program co-hosts) B.F. Jones Memorial Library Berks Kutztown Community Library Muhlenberg Community Library Erie Raymond M. Blasco, MD Memorial Library-Erie County Public Library Northumberland Priestley Forsyth Memorial Library Philadelphia Free Library of Philadelphia—Lucien E. Blackwell Branch John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School Out-of-School-Time Program Northeast Frankford Boys & Girls Club Sunrise of Philadelphia at South Philadelphia High School University of Pennsylvania Netter Center for Community Partnerships at UACS West Philadelphia High School Union Public Library for Union County Teen Reading Lounge is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. As a key part of its prevention focus, The Philadelphia Department of Human Services provides financial support to operate the Philadelphia out-of-school-time pilot sites.
Last fall, not long after the presidential election, Laurie Zierer spoke with Congressman Charlie Dent in his district office in Allentown. Zierer, who is executive director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC), made the visit with Josh Berk, executive director of the Bethlehem Area Public Library, to present the case for strong federal funding for arts and humanities. At that time Zierer told Dent that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) had brought $24.3 million to Pennsylvania over the last five years, and nearly $700,000 directly to his district. “I asked him, ‘Can you imagine how much more compelling the story would be if we added federal funding for the arts, library, and museum sectors?’ And he said, ‘I think it’s time to have a meeting.’” On June 19, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council convened that meeting: a conversation between Dent and regional humanities, arts, library, museum, and university leaders at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem. The event served to connect dots between various sectors within arts and humanities—and between federal funding and the impact of arts and humanities on local communities. More than 70 people attended, including national and state leaders from NEH, National Humanities Alliance, Pennsylvania Department of Education/Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania Library Association, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and PA Museums. In remarks at the top of the program, Margaret F. Plympton, deputy chairman of NEH, said, “Today’s event is an affirmation that the National Endowment for the Humanities, its sister agency the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and our state partners in the region matter and have had a positive impact on the Lehigh Valley, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and on the nation in general.” Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed elimination of NEH, along with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). More recently a bill to continue to finance those agencies won approval from the House appropriations committee, whose membership includes Dent. During the event in Bethlehem, Dent urged all present to continue contacting their members of Congress to urge them to support strong funding for the federal cultural agencies, and he emphasized repeatedly that Congress, not the President, “will ultimately control the purse strings on this stuff.” In her presentation, Zierer revealed that $68.5 million dollars had come to Pennsylvania directly through NEH, NEA, and IMLS in the last five years, including more than $1.2 million in Dent’s district. To flesh out the larger economic impact of that investment, Randall Forte, Lehigh Valley Arts Council executive director, gave a preview of the just-released Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 report for the Lehigh Valley. After Zierer’s and Forte’s presentations, moderator Tracey Matisak introduced audience members who described the impact of federal funding for arts and humanities in the region in three categories: Kassie Hilgert, president and CEO, Artsquest , spoke on economic impact; Berk and Jenna Lay, associate professor of English, Lehigh University, covered education; and Doug Roysdon, artistic director, Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre, spoke about how federal funding is crucial to providing access to arts and culture for all. “Libraries across the state have been able to better serve our communities thorough NEH and IMLS funds and I'd like to highlight in particular the Teen Reading Lounge, which is one such program that was very successful in Bethlehem,” Berk said. “The Pennsylvania Humanities Council-funded Teen Reading Lounge program allowed us to attract teens who might otherwise not have come to the library and to offer them the type of valuable enrichment they might not be exposed to elsewhere.” Congressman Dent took questions from the stage, and spoke with audience members over lunch after the formal event, consistently assuring all that their voices were being heard. “Your work enriches our communities and our lives,” Dent said, according to a follow-up article in the Allentown Morning Call. “People in the arts will go into communities that are often distressed and turn them around. They’re not only helping culturally and artistically, but they are participating in a very important community development aspect.”