Over $100,000 goes to support humanities projects in Wisconsin

Humanities Programs in Focus | October 25, 2018 | By:

The Wisconsin Humanities Council administers the only grant program in the state devoted to the public humanities. 

This fall our grant awards total more than $100,000. That is money going to school groups, museums, historical societies, colleges, civic and cultural organizations around the state. As we approach our 50th anniversary, we are very proud of the impact our grants have had on our state. We believe that locally-designed, community-based projects represent the power and potential of the humanities. In other words, when people come up with good ideas, and invite others to gather to explore those ideas more deeply, communities grow stronger. Read More


How to talk without fighting

Humanities Programs in Focus | September 12, 2018 | By:

Do you avoid talking about politics with someone in your family, for fear of conflict?  Have you clashed with a friend over an issue, and sadly found that more conversation made you both dig into your positions more deeply?  Read More


Immigration in Wisconsin: We Need the Humanities

Our Working Lives Project | August 15, 2018 | By:

Miguel Hernandez, pictured here, chooses to return to his hometown in Mexico after many years as a loyal and much-needed worker on a dairy farm. Los Lecheros is a short film that reveals the complexity of the current situation and the tension around Wisconsin dairy farms and undocumented workers.
Photo credit: Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Since the day he announced his candidacy, the President’s statements on immigration have provoked intense reactions, both for and against.  It’s pretty emotional.  But how familiar are you – or are most Wisconsinites — with the people the President is talking about?  With immigrants living in communities throughout Wisconsin today, or with the laws that govern their lives, the jobs they hold, or the measurable as well as unquantifiable effects their presence has on all of our lives? Read More


Arts & Humanities: Two peas in a pod?

Humanities Programs in Focus, Voices from the Field | July 26, 2018 | By:

Summit Players Theatre Shakespeare in the Park

This summer the Summit Players are performing Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at 17 state parks around Wisconsin. The free performances include an all-ages educational workshop on Shakespearean history, language and characters. This program, which combines historical insight, audience reflection, and conversation with a theatrical performance has been funded with grants from the Wisconsin Humanities Council two times.

What is the difference between ‘the arts’ and ‘the humanities?’

Here at the Wisconsin Humanities Council, we regularly discuss the different ways to define and understand ‘the humanities.’ We are aware that, as a term, it puts a label on a can of squishy, wriggling worms. Let’s face it, most people don’t find themselves dropping the words ‘the humanities’ in regular chit-chat.
 
The arts, though. That is a somethings we all can talk about a little more easily. So, how are these two categories distinct, and where do they blend together? As humans with brains wired for creativity, curiosity, and contemplation, can they really be considered as separate pursuits?
 
To get at these perennial questions, we are republishing one of our most popular blog posts. We think you’ll enjoy it!
 

Untold Stories and Arts@Large participant work on exhibit.

Organized by LOTUS Legal Clinic, the ‘Untold Stories’ program has received multiple WHC grants.  In an intimate workshop setting, survivors of sexual or domestic violence or human trafficking study literature, poetry, and other expressive writing to begin to put their own experiences into context and develop their skills in testimonial writing. Through a partnership with the Arts@Large program, middle and high school students who are studying gender-based violence create artistic responses to the written work of the ‘Untold Stories’ participants.

For many of us, the arts and the humanities go hand-in-hand. Our experiences in both life and in our work illustrate how the things we call The Arts (like theater, dance, music, and visual art forms) are influenced by, and intertwined with, the the things we call The Humanities (like history, philosophy, literature and folklore). And vice versa. 

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Welcome to Three New Board Members

Humanities Programs in Focus | July 12, 2018 | By:

WHC welcomes three new board members

Last month the Wisconsin Humanities Council board met in Oshkosh for our tri-annual meeting. The June meeting is always especially memorable because we are welcoming new board members and expressing our gratitude to those who are leaving.

This year we say Thank You to Raúl Galván, Chia Youyee Vang, and Kathy Ehley (not pictured) and Welcome to Mary Lynne Donohue, Karen Spahn, and May Vang! Read More


Announcing Summer Grant Awards

Humanities Programs in Focus | June 29, 2018 | By:

Congratulations to 14 organizations awarded $78,791 in Major Grants and Mini Grants in June! These projects tell meaningful stories about Wisconsin and bring communities together to explore important themes. We welcome you to be a part of the story and see these projects and events.

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Staff Summer Reading Picks for 2018

Humanities Programs in Focus, Voices from the Field | June 7, 2018 | By:

Our fifth annual Staff Summer Reading List is here! You’ll find a collection of enthusiastic recommendations for books that are wildly different. Isn’t that what is so great about books!? There is truly something on the WHC bookshelf for everyone. Happy reading!


Jessica BeckerJessica’s pick: My friend was deeply engrossed in a book when I came upon him sitting on a bench in the woods. I left our encounter with his sincere recommendation to read “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The call felt urgent and I bought the book on my way home. In her commencement speech at Northland College, where she received an honorary degree, Kimmerer said, “for the world to stay in balance there is an ongoing exchange of gifts between people and the living world.” It is fitting that I was given the ‘gift’ of this book while hiking in the woods.

Kimmerer beautifully braids stories from her life as a mother, a botanist, a professor, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. The essays, or vignettes, are clustered progressively in sections called planting sweetgrass, tending sweetgrass, picking sweetgrass, braiding sweetgrass and burning sweetgrass. One of my favorites is titled “Learning the Grammar of Animacy.” It is a humorous and humble story about learning to speak a new language and all that is revealed about culture and oneself through language. For Kimmerer, the lessons come while learning Potawatomi, an Anishinaabe language. She writes, “now my house is spangled with Post-it notes in another language, as if I were studying for a trip abroad. But I’m not going away, I’m coming home.”

Language is important to Kimmerer. Her words flow,  making this an easy read, though the ideas are deep and held up with solid science. Quoting the commencement speech again, Kimmerer says that gratitude reminds us “we are not alone in the world [and] that our very existence relies on the gifts of others.” So if this recommendation strikes you at the right moment, then consider it a gift and read up. Braiding Sweetgrass is a perfect story for summer.

Carmelo’s pick: I have recently begun reading the book “Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts ” by the British archaeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands. This wonderful book grabbed my attention by the end of the first paragraph of the introduction. In “Craeft”  Langlands invites the reader to reflect on the cultural meaning of more than a thousand years of art, craft, and manual labor history in the British Isles. The book describes the many techniques and traditions that went into making stuff by hands for millennia (literally everything) before the Industrial Revolution and the vocabulary associated with them. Most of this vocabulary has fallen out of use in our Modern era.

According to Langlands, the word “craeft” (not its modern iteration: Craft) is nearly untranslatable to us, since it encompassed “a form of knowledge, not just a knowledge of making but a knowledge of being.” Based on what I’ve read so far, I sense that Langlands is persuading his readers to think beyond the words and tools that have fallen into disuse since we stopped making everything with our hands, in order to rediscover what has been lost in our age of mass-produced manufactured goods. As the director of the Working Lives Project, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Mike KeanMike’s pick: Bobby Kennedy, A Raging Spirit by Chris Mathews is an engaging, though not too heavy, biography. Matthews is the anchor of MSNBC’s Hardball and and expert on the Kennedy family. As a fan of history, I appreciated reading about the early years of Bobby’s life, his start in politics, and his role as attorney general in his brother’s administration. I recommend this summertime read for those interested in the Kennedy clan, Camelot, and the politics of 1950’s and 60’s.  

Dena’s pick: There are some novels that I love better, but for none of these would I make the claim that they are better as novels than George Eliot’s Middlemarch.  I belong to a very large club of admirers.  Middlemarch is reasonably and widely considered the greatest of the Victorian novels.  And oh, those Victorians!  So if you, like me, somehow missed reading this classic, don’t put it off a moment longer.  You’ll find a book full of endlessly complex characters that is rich in ideas, compassion, poetry, and sly humor.  It was my most enjoyable read of the past year.

Shawn’s pick: I recommend a novel titled The Girl Before by JP Delaney. It’s a top-notch who-dun-it psychological thriller that will keep you turning the page. Although I was reading it while traveling on the Glacier Express through the stunning Swiss Alps, I couldn’t put it down.

 

 

Meg’s pick: As we were planning Wisconsin’s Water Future, our Beyond The Headlines program in Madison, I kept hearing mention of several books related to water issues that I’m very much enjoying – if you can use “enjoy” about stories with such dark themes running through them. Dan Egan’s, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, UW’s latest Big Read selection, tells a highly readable and compelling history of the Great Lakes. I’m only a few chapters in and already a theme of decision-making made based on cheapest and quickest, without much research or thought to long-term impacts, is playing out. Such decisions led to the arrival of multiple invasive species in the Great Lakes that have collapsed fisheries and imperiled ecosystems.

Hewing to the water theme, as well as the consequences-of-bad-decisions theme, I am about halfway through The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s a gritty future dystopia that examines what happens when something we all need to survive – water – becomes a commodity that most people can’t afford. One of the protagonists is a burned out Pulitzer-award winning journalist who could move away from a virtually waterless Phoenix, but she feels compelled to cover the stories of the people navigating the collapse of the Southwest. But knowing too much is dangerous. Water wars wage between states and corporate water owners over the waters of the Colorado River and other sources. Their militias create water refugees who become an exploited and oppressed underclass scrambling for ounces of recycled wastewater as the wealthy, foreign or disaster tourist classes consume water at an extravagant rate. Both books are certainly reminders that water is life.

Gail’s pick: Do yourself a favor this summer and pick up The Driftless Reader, edited by Curt Meine and Keefe Keeley.  It is a wonderful selection of excerpts of literary, journalistic, and scientific writings created to present a beautiful mosaic of the region.  The Driftless Area is a rugged land, reaching into four states. It has been home to an extraordinary group of people: Ho-Chunk, Sauk, Dakota, Norwegian farmers, Dominican nuns, Buddhist monks, Cornish miners, African American barn builders, Hmong and Amish farmers, Shakespearean actors and more. 

There are eighty texts in the book, including the writings of Mark Twain, Frank Lloyd Wright, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Aldo Leopold, David Rhodes, Fabu, Wallace Stegner, Patty Loew, Pedro Guerrero, John Muir, and so many more –Native people, explorers, historians, scientists, and poets. There are also maps, paintings and illustrations scattered throughout this beautiful book.  

One of my all-time favorite books, The Land Remembers by Ben Logan, is excerpted and sums up, for me, why the best way to understand this region is by looking at it through different lenses. Logan wrote,  “There is no neat and easy way to tell the story of a farm.  A farm is a process, where everything is related, everything is happening at once. It is a circle of life; and there is no logical place to begin a perfect circle. This is an unsolved paradox for me. Part of the folly of our time is the idea that we can see the whole of something by looking at the pieces, one at a time. Yet, how else tell the story of the farm?”

That is the best way to enjoy this reader: one story at a time.  It is a rich and delicious read on a summer day or anytime throughout the year!


What we were reading last summer

 

 

 

 

Our 2016 Summer Reading Picks

 

 

 

 

Top Summer Reading Selections in 2015

 

 

 

The first ever WHC Summer Reading List

 


A promising sign

Humanities Programs in Focus | May 30, 2018 | By:

Last week we learned that a House Appropriations sub-committee is proposing a $5 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities in fiscal year 2019. We’re early in the budget process, but this is a very promising start.  Read More


The Robots are Coming?

Our Working Lives Project | May 4, 2018 | By:

By Carmelo Davila, Working Lives Project Director, and Jessica Becker

How will technological advancement and automation impact jobs in the U.S. and abroad?

“Will a robot take my job?” and other concerns about how technology is affecting the workplace are part of ongoing speculation about what the future of work will be for each of us. This is a complicated issue. It is not enough to hear from computer scientists, engineers, economists, or policy makers. As humans living through changes and preparing for more, we can look to the humanities to draw from historical, philosophical, and ethical sources to develop our own understanding of these changes.

The Working Lives Project is the WHC’s multi-year effort to spark thoughtful discussion about issues facing working people in our state now and into the future. A humanities approach is inclusive, reflective, and takes into consideration how Wisconsinites individually and collectively are ‘making a living and making a life’ through their work.

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In the News: The Humanities Prevail

Humanities Programs in Focus | April 4, 2018 | By:

A year ago we were reeling from the news.  The President’s FY18 federal budget was released to the public.  It called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  With about 90% of our funding coming from the NEH, we faced the possibility that after 45 years, the WHC could be shut down. 

I was extremely worried, but I told everyone that it is Congress that has the power of the purse.  And I believed that Republican and Democratic members of Congress who have long seen the value of the NEH, and of state humanities councils like the WHC, would stand behind their commitment to public funding of our work.  I was confident that the WHC would survive, although I thought it likely that we would see our budget reduced.  Read More