The 2020 report of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities documents a historic year. The public health and economic crisis wrought by the global pandemic compelled the Humanities Council to find new ways to inspire and connect Rhode Islanders through the humanities. The national and local movement for racial justice sharpened the Council’s commitment to mobilizing humanities practices to interrogate history, engage in difficult dialogues, and to connect to the urgency of change.
I am deeply proud of the Council’s staff and board for building an entirely new grant program to provide additional federal relief funds to humanities organizations so that they could stay afloat while their buildings were closed and their programs curtailed to protect public health. The Council awarded 94 regular and relief grants totaling over $545,000 in 2020, three-times what the Council awarded in regular grants in 2019. These funds offered important help, but they did not make up for the tremendous loss and disruption that organizations serving many communities have suffered. At the same time, we have been inspired and impressed by our grantees’ and partners’ rapid adoption of virtual ways to engage, and the fierce dedication to continue offering substantive, imaginative, and provocative humanities content that drew audiences in Rhode Island, around the country, and throughout the world.
The Council also launched expanded communications to help keep people connected, informed, and inspired. Our new bi-monthly e-newsletter, Humanities in Context, offers insights and perspectives on the humanities both locally and nationally. We hosted our first-ever virtual Celebration of the Humanities, drawing an audience of 785 viewers. This report also summarizes partnerships and initiatives that continue to mobilize the humanities to meet the moment—amplifying voices that need to be heard and taking on civic challenges through knowledge, questions, reflection and action.
The Humanities Council is able to do this through a dynamic combination of support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, individuals who devote their philanthropy to the humanities, and businesses, foundations, and organizations that recognize the value of the humanities for a strong democracy and rich culture. Thank you for joining us.
With gratitude and hope,
Elizabeth Francis, PhD