Arizona Humanities Builds Stronger Communities

By Barbara Baderman, Chair

Arizona Humanities is a vital contributor to Arizona’s economy. Arts, Culture and Humanities non-profits represent 7.9% of the 21,137 registered organizations in Arizona, Arizona Nonprofits: Economic Power, Positive Impact. Arizona Humanities contributes every single day to the prosperity of our citizens through the building of strong communities, each with unique cultures.

You might not know it, but you have likely attended or seen an Arizona Humanities program in your town or city, at a museum, library, or public facility. Arizona Humanities has been around for over 40 years. Over the last year the funding we receive from the National Endowment of Humanities (NEH) and donors has supported over 300 programs in fourteen or 93% of Arizona counties. As Arizona demographics continue to change, it is more important than ever to provide programs that encourage people to come together to share, learn and reflect on our world through the perspectives of others.

Arizona’s investment in public education has been less than stellar. In the past 5 years in K-12 we have seen the loss of afterschool programs and summer camps, a decrease in high school graduation rates, and a reduction in library hours and staff.  Arizona Humanities brings programs to children and youth through humanities camps and literacy programs such as Hop, Skip & Jump Into Reading at local schools and libraries. The Hop Skip program actively engages children in reading and storytelling, and other fun activities that promote literacy for tomorrow’s leaders.

Arizona Humanities programs fill the gaps through exploration of history, philosophy, ethics, diversity, politics, literacy, literature, music and law in our everyday lives. In our society where technology and science make the news every day, Arizona Humanities focuses quietly but with great impact on the humanities. Ultimately, we provide programs that help shape our past, our present and our future.

Arizona’s population is spread between small and large communities.  Our mission over the past 40 years has been to bring people together in rural as well as urban settings, where people of all economic backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and races can engage in open discussions, and reflect on issues relevant to their communities.  One of our goals is to make humanities programs available for everyone, so people can see the world through the eyes of others. Arizona Humanities believes deeply that through the humanities, we can more fully understand each other by recognizing our differences through open and civil discussions, and because of those discussions celebrate our individual histories and experiences. Understanding our history and our differences as people, encourages the building of stronger communities, and economic vitality follows.

In 2018 an exciting new partnership with the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University will bring Water/Ways, a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition into 12 rural communities.  Without organizations like NEH and its connection with Arizona Humanities, these unique opportunities might not be possible.

So, what really is the point of humanities? Humanities is our national and state memory, it is our personal history, it is how we engage with each other and our communities, it is recognition of cultural differences, it is open communication and discussion about things that matter to us as citizens in a great democracy, it is about helping people to connect with others, and it explains the ‘why’ of how we view ourselves and interact with others in society. NEH funding of Arizona Humanities brings people together from all walks of life.

The humanities help us explore what makes us human, and connect us with others in a technology focused society where face-to-face connections are fewer and fewer. If NEH funding is eliminated, the impact will be felt by everyone. NEH funding represents a tiny fraction of federal spending – .004%. The humanities allow people to dream. There is no more compelling argument for such a small investment to continue to fund the NEH.

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