Grants available for a Working Lives Project in your town

Close up of hands working with glass and fireWe encourage community organizations across the state to submit grant proposals for projects about the past, present and future of work. 

As part of our multi-year Working Lives Project, the WHC is eager to fund projects that invite public reflection on what it means to make a living and make a life in Wisconsin. 

Projects must focus on the human aspects of work and working, broadly defined.  The WHC funds projects that address public policy issues.  However, we look for projects that employ experts in ways that bring diverse and balanced perspectives to such discussions.  The WHC does not fund projects that advocate for a particular position.

Applicants should use regular grant applications and deadlines. As always, you are encouraged to contact Meg Turville-Heitz, our Grant Program Director, with questions and to discuss ideas!


Wondering what a humanities project about work looks like?

Here are a few WHC-funded projects that exemplify a public humanities project about work:

Vital Skills exhibition |  $1,195 awarded to the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters

This exhibition highlighted thirty Wisconsin artists and artisans who are preserving the tradition of working by hand. The exhibit featured handmade works from boat-builders, weavers, metalsmiths, shoemakers and other types of craftsmen. By showcasing the potential benefits of handiwork, “Vital Skills” sought to encourage traditional, localized methods of sustainability in an increasingly import-driven economy.


“Icons and Entrepreneurs: Downtowns of Yesterday and Tomorrow”  |  $6,351 awarded to the Douglas County Historical Society

When the city of Superior launched a downtown revitalization project, the Douglas County Historical Society joined the conversation with an exhibit exploring the contributions of local businessmen, cultural movements, labor strikes and other facets of life in Superior. Accompanied by a panel discussion on the upcoming downtown development, the project encouraged residents to reflect on Superior’s past and future, and the ways people live and work downtown.


Lavinia  |  $1,987 awarded to The Director of State Courts Office and $9,452 awarded to the Wisconsin Law Foundation

In the 1870s, Lavinia Goodell became the first woman to argue before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The story of her life and struggles as a woman practicing law are told in a play by Wisconsin playwright Betty Diamond.  The play is traveling to Janesville, Madison, and Superior in 2015.


“The Pullman Porters: From Service to Civil Rights”   |  $10,000 awarded to the National Railroad Museum

Pullman porters have a special place as African American workers in the struggle for labor and civil rights. The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI established a permanent exhibit detailing their experiences during the first half of the twentieth century. The exhibit includes an actual Pullman sleeping car, the Lake Mitchell, which visitors can walk through, as well as artifacts including clothing and photographs, and an interactive kiosk displaying the porters’ oral histories.


“Unlock the Memories: The History of Locktending on the Fox River”  |   $2,000 awarded to the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway

In the nineteenth century, river locks were a critical part of the state’s transportation infrastructure, enabling the passage of goods between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. The lives and contributions of Wisconsin’s locktenders were celebrated and explored by the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway at an event for Fox River locktenders past and present. They and their families shared personal stories which will contribute to public understanding of the region’s history.


“Manoomike: Harvesting the Good Seed”  |   $10,000 awarded to St. John’s United Church of Christ

Manoomin (wild rice) has a central place in Ojibwe life and culture. An hour-long radio documentary, lectures and published stories informed the public about the importance of rice harvesting to Ojibwe culture, the need to preserve this culture, and the positive impact the Ojibwe have wrought for people throughout northern Wisconsin.


[Photo Credit: Jeff Miller, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tracy Drier at work in the scientific glass lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Chemistry Department.]