Jodi and Cris love words. We are lucky to start off 2020 with each of them bringing more poetry, connection and exploration to our work around Wisconsin!
¡Mi travesía hasta Wisconsin!
Jodi and Cris love words. We are lucky to start off 2020 with each of them bringing more poetry, connection and exploration to our work around Wisconsin!
Maybe it’s the energy that comes after a break, or just the result of eating too many holiday treats, but since the first of the year I’ve been in a frenzy of list-making. Here are some of the top items on my “new for 2020” list. I hope you’ll add them to yours!
Beyond the Headlines: Wisconsin’s Water Future 2020
In communities in the Coulee region, greater Green Bay, the Northwoods, Wausau, Eau Claire, and near Lake Superior, we’re hosting workshops and community conversations about the many water challenges we face, and how to tell deeply-informed water stories that help us move our communities forward. The first workshop is on April 25 in La Farge.
Immigration in Wisconsin
Cris Font-Santiago, a UW humanities dissertator and native of Puerto Rico, is joining the WHC team this month to coordinate the statewide tour of our exhibition, Immigrant Journeys from South of the Border ¡Mi travesía hasta Wisconsin!. He’s really looking forward to working with local hosts around the state. Stay tuned for the schedule, or contact me if you would like to be considered as a host.
Sharing the power of the humanities
So many amazing things are happening – community conversations, performances, exhibits, and more — of which I am proud that the WHC plays a part. I hope you’ll be inspired this summer, when I invite you to experience our new website and listen to our inaugural podcast. You’ll hear about what people in other parts of the state are doing, and what they care about – curious people like you, who love Wisconsin. And it’s going to be easier to apply for grants, when we unveil our new online grant application portal!
So stay tuned! And write me a note to tell me what you’re excited about in 2020!
P.S. Start 2020 on a positive note and meet people who are doing amazing things: Get a copy of the gorgeous Love Wisconsin book when you give a monthly gift of $10 or more! I look forward to sending you a copy with my warmest thanks!
We all have a water story. And the water stories around us grow more complex every day. What do we know about extreme rainfall and PFAS and why the Great Lakes are at record highs? Who can we turn to and who should we trust to find out?
We’re excited to announce that Beyond the Headlines will be focusing on Wisconsin’s Water Future statewide, thanks to a generous grant of almost $35,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of its Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative. We’ll be hosting events and activities in six regions of the state in 2020 and 2021 that will bring journalists, community members and experts together to delve into Wisconsin’s water stories.
We’re kicking it off April 25th in La Farge with a workshop that convenes journalists, community leaders and experts on the past, present and future of Coulee Region waters.
We’ll be following this with a workshop on Northwoods water issues May 8th in Rhinelander, and on Greater Green Bay issues May 29th. Additional events to be scheduled will focus on Lake Superior (Ashland), Chippewa Valley (Eau Claire) and Central Wisconsin (Wausau).
WHC launched Beyond the Headlines in 2018 in response to concerns about the public’s declining trust in the news media and the loss of local news outlets and the capacity to inform the public about important issues. Research shows that the loss of local news outlets leads to a decline in civic participation and an erosion of democracy.
Wisconsin has a rich water heritage that has shaped its communities and even the identities of its residents. What does the future hold? What are your water stories? We look forward to these important conversations in 2020!
The Wisconsin Humanities Council is seeking photographers who specialize in event and portrait photography. Professional photographers living in every region of Wisconsin are invited to apply.
Selected photographers will become part of our roster and may be hired to photograph events and people for WHC print and digital publications and marketing. Photographers will be hired on a job-by-job basis.
The WHC’s mission is to use history, culture and conversation to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin. Our story is made up of your stories. We are committed to working with and representing the diverse populations of our state.
Contact Jessica Becker at 608-263-3155 or via email with questions.
The Wisconsin Humanities Council administers the only grant program in the state devoted to the public humanities. Every year, we give away $200,000 in grants to organizations that provide original programs for people all over the state. Our grant program is open seven times a year, with two categories of grants (smaller and larger grants), so we can respond directly to the people who know the needs of their community.
Grant applications are reviewed by our board members, a group of people who represent the breadth of the humanities and the diversity of our state. This October, board members met in Madison to make funding decisions about Major Grants. We are excited to share the following list of Grant Awards totaling $42,700!
The Wisconsin Humanities Council couldn’t fund these projects without support from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the State of Wisconsin, and private donors. This money invested in our state multiplies locally! Learn more…
$2,000 to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Educational Foundation (Green Bay) | Kao Kalia Yang Presentation
WHC funds will help the college bring Hmong author Kao Kalia Yang to the Green Bay campus to provide a community lecture and workshop open to staff, students, and the community. Yang is the author of “The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir” and “The Song Poet.” Her works speaks to the refugee and immigrant experiences and she will address issues of literacy and education, as well as race and class of the Hmong people. This project is part of our focus on race and ethnicity.
$2,000 to UWM Waukesha Foundation | Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books
We’re pleased to again support the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, a free community celebration of literacy and arts. The 2019 theme is Opening Doors: A Decade of the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books.
$2,000 to Crossroads at Big Creek (Sturgeon Bay) | The Big Dig at Crossroads, Fall 2019
The Big Dig is an authentic archaeological experience for middle school students of Door County. Funds from the grant enable students to have an archaeological experience that include shovel testing, unit excavation, a flintknapping demonstration, flotation machine use, and the cleaning and classification of artifacts.
$2,000 to Wisconsin Veterans Museum Foundation | Talking Spirits XXI: Forest Hill Cemetery Tour
This popular award-winning living history program illuminates the lives of many prominent and lesser-known figures in Wisconsin history. This year’s theme, “Service Beyond the War,” featured five theatrical performances by actors portraying people with a range of perspectives on both the Civil War and the growth of Wisconsin afterward.
$10,000 to UW-Milwaukee | The Gun Violence Project: Narratives of Violence in Milwaukee
We’re proud to help fund an important collaborative effort to map the human experiences of gun violence in Wisconsin, beginning with the Milwaukee area. Using a digital platform, this evolving resource will share the audio stories, images, and interactive maps to help engage the community understanding the realities of gun violence at its aftermath.
$5,525 to First Stage Milwaukee | Courage in Storytelling: Workshops inspired by regional premiere GRETEL!
We’re pleased to again support First Stage’s Foundry Stage Series production and workshops. The musical theater production reinterprets and combines the folktales of “Vasilisa the Beautiful” and “Hansel and Gretel,” relating how a girl overcomes life’s obstacles with courage, perseverance, determination and kindness. The reach of this project includes extended programming for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
$9,175 to Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) | Conversations About Immigration in Marathon County
WHC funds support a three-part series designed to lay out facts, bust myths, provide local perspective and make space for conversations on how the issue of immigration affects central Wisconsin communities. This project is part of our focus on race and ethnicity.
$10,000 to Music Theatre of Madison | INDECENT: A Tony-winning play with extensive significance
We’re pleased to support this ambitious presentation of “Indecent,” a play the explores themes of anti-semitism, censorship, sexuality, and love of art. In association with this production, MTM will work in collaboration with numerous community partners to provide supporting educational materials.
In the years since we launched the Working Lives Project, a lot has changed in the economy and even in the nature of work itself. I’m so happy that we were able to help people across the state reflect with one another on the past, present, and future of work.
Today, I want to give a special shout-out to the two dozen presenters who made the ShopTalk speaker program such a success. This month, we’re celebrating the completion of the program, which brought over 200 presentations and lively conversations about work to communities from Bayfield to Milwaukee, from Rice Lake to Cross Plains.
“ShopTalk topics were timely and timeless, and seemed designed to spark discussion and foster connections among humans,” said one library host.
Space doesn’t permit me to list every speaker and talk, but among our most popular were Corey Saffold on the paradox of being African American and a police officer, Jim Leary sharing the folksong traditions of Wisconsin workers, Rachel Monaco-Wilcox educating audiences about human trafficking, Alan Anderson on the forgotten craftsmen who build Frank Lloyd Wright’s furniture, and Jesus Salas on migrant workers in Wisconsin.
As we celebrate the end of the Working Lives Project, I want to offer my thanks as we say good-bye to Carmelo Dávila, who directed the project and brought his passion to the sparking of great humanities conversations.
PS: We are so excited that Governor Tony Evers has proclaimed October Arts and Humanities Month in Wisconsin! Thanks to our partners at the Wisconsin Arts Board for their great work around the state. And thanks to all of you for being part of this work, every month of the year!
It is August! Oh my!
Our annual staff summer reading list is always fun to put together. This year it was a reminder for many of us of how quickly the season seems to be flying by and how many books there are still waiting to be read. But no worries: the cooler months make for cozy reading, too. As the novelist Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Here are a few of the books on our minds and in our hands right now! Happily, since a book is timeless, we think you’ll find recommendations from past years that inspire you, too!
From Meg: Summer is just racing by and I haven’t done anywhere near as much reading as I’d hoped. I’m halfway though “Little Faith” by Nickolas Butler and I’ve just picked up “This Storied River – Legend & Lore of the the Upper Mississippi” by former WHC board member Dennis McCann. “Little Faith” (also recommended by Gail below!) explores the family dynamic that emerges when different perspectives on faith clash over how best to care for a sick child. It sets this story in a richly detailed Wisconsin seasonal and cultural landscape as grandparents struggle to remain in the lives of their ill grandchild. I’m really enjoying it. I’ve only just begun to dig into “This Storied River,” which I was excited to read after hearing the author tell one of the stories in it. The unique stories about places along the Mississippi River, from effigy mounds to the button boom, speak to my love of rivers and history.
From Shawn: I’m reading a book that was a National Book Award Finalist in 2014 titled “Citizen, An American Lyric,” by Claudia Rankine. In parabolic prose poems, photos, art and essays, the book elucidates the raw impact of emotional injury the author personally experienced or witnessed from subtle and unexpected moments when racism surfaced – between she and friends, between she and colleagues, and among strangers on the train headed for Union Station. There is also the tumult of being rendered invisible (hence, insignificant) by society at large which shows up in the news every day, and in gestures and the facial expressions of neighbors in drugstore check-out lines. This book is a painful read no matter the color of your skin. Carve out enough time to process the shock of it.
From Carmelo: This summer I was up for light and fun reading. I finally took one of my wife’s reading recommendations seriously and picked up her beat-up pocketbook copy of “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (after 15 years of insistence on her part). A TV series based on the book is now streaming on Amazon Prime (I won’t be watching it until I’m through with the book!). This now-classic comedic novel tells the story of the attempts of Heaven and Hell to finally unleash the Apocalypse and the efforts of an unlikely alliance between an angel named Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley to thwart such prophetic attempts. Aziraphale and Crowley have both been living among humans for thousands of years, and have therefore developed an appreciation for all things humans and, in the particular case of Crowley, for earthly pleasures. The plan? To swap babies, so baby Antichrist be placed with a normal human family, instead of his designated Demon family, to sabotage the implementation of the book of Revelations prophecy. From page one I realized that the irony in this book is to die for. The humor in these pages reaches Apocalyptic proportions very quickly. Wonderful reading if you want to decompress or recharge through laughter!
From Jessica: For fans of Barbara Kingsolver’s characters and storytelling, it is a treat when a new book comes out. I loved her latest, “Unsheltered,” a story set in Vineland, New Jersey. The real city of Vineland was established by a property developer in the 1860s as an alcohol-free utopian society based on agriculture and progressive thinking. In the book, chapters alternate between a family living in a crumbling home of dubious historic importance in modern times with a family living in nearly the same spot in the early years of the city’s founding. Delightfully, the last two words of each chapter form the title of the next chapter, allowing the ideas in the two stories to weave together poetically. Characters in both families find their beliefs about the world coming unhinged just as the literal roofs on their homes collapse and threaten to make the families homeless, or unsheltered. I especially enjoyed learning about Mary Treat, a real-life botanist and entomologist who corresponded with Darwin, studied the carnivorous plants of the pine barrens, and brought new scientific ideas to popular audiences in her regular pieces in magazines like Harper’s. When visiting family in New Jersey this summer, I made a point of going to Batso Village to see where Mary Treat set off into the woods for her plant studies!
From Dena: What better time than summer to read something thoroughly addictive? I’m half-way into the second of the four Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante and will not stop until I’ve read them all (“My Brilliant Friend,” “The Story of a New Name,” “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” “and “The Story of the Lost Child.”) Their driving force is the friendship between two women, beginning with their childhood in a working class neighborhood in Naples. Either character alone would be fascinating enough to carry an entire novel. The two together, and Ferrante’s brilliant depiction of their friendship and their struggles in life and with one another, are mesmerizing. The emotional complexity of the two characters is so convincing that I’m sure, like me, you’ll decide they must be real. Add a ton of great plot, great secondary characters, and some ocean…. Maybe you’ve heard that HBO did a version, but don’t even think of watching instead of reading!
From Gail: I’m also recommending “Little Faith” by Wisconsin writer Nick Butler. I was fortunate to work with Nick years ago and have read all his books. I can recommend them all. But this one I really enjoyed. It is subtle and powerful, and beautifully written. In an interview, he explained: “I don’t know how NOT to be influenced by the people I love, namely my family and friends. I also don’t know how to write about the world I’m struggling to understand, the world I’m trying to celebrate, the world I’m trying to critique, without incorporating my own feelings, perceptions, and history. So it often seems that my books very much have the fingerprints of real people all over their pages. ” As for the inspiration for this story, he said, “I’d been thinking about the Kara Neumann case since 2008 when her death came to light. It was just a horrendous story and something that still resonates with any adult who was alive at that time, but especially those with children.”
This summer, board member John Viste invited the Wisconsin Humanities Council to Wausau for our tri-annual board meeting. Wausau happens to be the home of the WHC’s founding board chair, Gerald Viste, John’s father. We were delighted to have his company at a reception in downtown Wausau and to honor his lifelong commitment to civic engagement, deep thinking, and building connections. In the photo above, Jerry is surrounded by the current and former board chairs who joined us that evening.
The WHC was created as an independent non-profit in 1972 by a congressional mandate. For the past nearly 50 years, the WHC has had board members who bring their individual strengths and collective wisdom to give the people of Wisconsin greater access to the humanities.
In this tradition, we welcome five new members to the WHC board: Nicole Brookshire, Jenifer Cole, Jan Larson, Carole Trone, and Kris Adams Wendt. And we also say farewell and thank you to retiring board members Reggie Jackson and Don Greenwood.
Nicole Brookshire lives in Milwaukee, where she is Executive Director of Milwaukee County Office on African American Affairs. She brings decades of experience as a leading voice for positive growth in Milwaukee and has a passion for working with youth.
Jenifer Cole lives in Madison and is the Program and Policy Supervisor for the Bureau of Working Families, part of the State of Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. She also serves on the board of the Wisconsin Women’s Network and has spent her career committed to gender and social justice. She was appointed by Governor Evers.
Jan Larson lives in Eau Claire, where she is professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism at UW-Eau Claire. She began her career as a journalist and was a member of the steering committee for a WHC initiative called Beyond the Headlines in Eau Claire.
Carole Trone lives in Madison, where she is the Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives of the Fair Opportunity Project. She is committed to building partnerships between educational organizations to expand resources for all students. She was appointed by Governor Evers.
Kris Adams Wendt lives in Rhinelander, where she retired from Rhinelander District Library and now works as a Public Library Consultant for the Wisconsin Valley Library Service. She is committed to public service and building bridges between policy makers at municipal, county and state levels. She was appointed by Governor Evers and is serving her second term on the WHC board.
Wisconsin Humanities Council members work hard. As volunteers, they review grant proposals three to five times a year. The also attend WHC and grant-funded events around the state serving as ambassadors for the Council and evaluating our programs. Board members are also critical in helping the WHC make connections and raise money. With their individual strengths and collective wisdom, our board contributes a great deal to make history, culture, and conversation happen all over Wisconsin.
We accept nominations. If you know someone who might like to join the WHC board, find out more here.
Board members who have completed their terms rotate off the board, but gratefully they don’t go far: former board members are invited to join our Alumni Circle, an informal group made up of past members.
The Alumni Circle channels their commitment to the Wisconsin Humanities Council into direct action. They put their energy into creating more opportunities for Wisconsinites to have access to the ideas and knowledge sparked through humanities experiences. Thanks to the passion of the Alumni Circle, for example, we partnered with the storytelling group Love Wisconsin to share the story of Jim Leary, a folklorist, to help broaden understanding of the humanities and their role in our lives. Find it here!
The Wisconsin Humanities Council believes that everyone in the state should have the opportunity to explore the rich histories and diverse cultures that together inform our ideas about the past and shape the future of our communities. With seven deadlines every year, our grant program is accessible. It provides the assistance community leaders need to turn their ideas into home-grown experiences.
Below are eight short summaries of the big ideas that recently received WHC funding! Every year we give away around $200,000 in grants to schools, libraries, museums, churches, historical societies, colleges and civic groups for projects that promote new understanding and that reflect the needs and interests of the community.
You can follow what is happening on our Facebook page!
Every immigrant to Wisconsin has a unique story. If you aren’t part of that story, or aren’t looking for it, you might miss it.
As immigration remains at the red-hot center of our politically divided nation, we decided at the WHC that we had to use the humanities to help people think about the immigrants among us — especially immigrants from south of the border. Read More