Get to know the 2022 Celebration Honorees and Keynote Speaker. Scroll down the page for all biographies.
HONORARY CHAIRS’ AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE HUMANITIES
Joan Abrams, educator, civic leader, philanthropist, and humanities advocate
The Honorary Chairs’ Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities is presented annually to celebrate an individual or group whose career achievements demonstrate humanities excellence, reflect the Humanities Council’s mission and core values, and enrich public life in Rhode Island. A resident of Bristol, RI, Joan Abrams has served for decades in volunteer and professional capacities to support many of the state’s leading humanities, cultural, arts, and environmental organizations including Save the Bay, Festival Ballet, Blithewold, the Newport Art Museum, and the Humanities Council, among many others. Abrams embodies the connection between the humanities and civic health through community participation and contributing to community wellbeing. A lifelong learner and educator, Abrams served as a professor and the director of the Master’s in Communications Management Degree Program at Simmons College in Boston for over 15 years. Abrams has served on the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as well as on the Board of Governors of Higher Education for the three Rhode Island state colleges and university. Her dedicated board service and leadership all across Rhode Island has influenced the state’s humanities, environmental, and educational sectors in innumerable ways.
Abrams holds a BA in Communication and Media Studies and a MA in Communication Management from Simmons University as well as a MPA in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Abrams served on the national Board of Directors of the Federation of State Humanities Councils and on the board of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities for three terms, April 2019-March 2022 and 2011-2017, serving as chair from 2015-2016. In 2010, she was named Rhode Island’s Philanthropic Citizen of the Year. Her dedication to Rhode Island has contributed immeasurably to the cultural richness and environmental resources of the state.
TOM ROBERTS PRIZE FOR CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT IN THE HUMANITIES
Josh Short, Founder and Artistic Director of the Wilbury Theatre Group
The Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities recognizes an individual or organization whose work extends the fields of the humanities by blending the wisdom and methods of the humanities in an inventive, original, and imaginative way with topics, disciplines, and formats not ordinarily associated with traditional humanities education. As Founder and Artistic Director of the Wilbury Theatre Group, Josh Short has built a dynamic company that breathes life into the twin ideas that theatre must be for everyone and theatre must make you think. For a dozen years, Short has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to producing theatre that reflects our shared human ability to examine and express our thoughts, feelings and values, bringing stories to the stage from the widest swath of sources imaginable: classic texts, recent creations, world premieres, and works-in-progress.
In 2014, Short led The Wilbury Group’s efforts to establish FRINGEPVD: The Providence Fringe Festival with 50 handpicked artists in five venues throughout Providence, carrying on the fringe tradition of theatre produced outside the bounds of traditional institutions. FRINGEPVD has grown to become a voting member of the United States Association of Fringe Festivals and the World Fringe Congress. It is the largest fringe theatre festival in New England.
At the height of the pandemic, Short collaborated with other cultural and service organizations in the theatre’s Olneyville neighborhood to ensure that the stories of Rhode Islanders in one of the hardest hit zip codes were told through Capture the Block: Stories from Ward 15, supported in part through the Humanities Council’s Culture Is Key initiative.
A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Short lives in southern Rhode Island with his family.
INNOVATION IN THE HUMANITIES AWARD
Haus of Glitter and The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins
The Innovation in the Humanities Award recognizes the innovative implementation of the humanities within an organization to achieve a specific goal or a collaboration between organizations to work beyond their institutional walls in order to achieve a shared vision. The Haus of Glitter Dance Company and Performance Lab is the 2022 recipient for their activist dance opera The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins — a singularly moving, transformative, and effective collective exploration and intervention into Rhode Island’s history of slavery and race.
This effort was part of the Haus of Glitter’s Artist Residency to live in, heal with, and reimagine the former Esek Hopkins Homestead in Providence, which was built in 1756. It was home to Admiral Esek Hopkins who captained the slave ship Sally, one of the deadliest and cruel voyages with enslaved people in Rhode Island’s history as a major center of the Triangle Trade. The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins, performed on the grounds of the Homestead in Summer 2021, imagines what life would be like today if colonization or slavery never happened by telling the story of a single Black person lost on the voyage and imagining her story, family, emotions, and legacy. Haus of Glitter creates work that centers historical and artistic investigation on Queer/Feminist Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) wisdom, healing, and liberation.
Through their performance-based pedagogy, Haus of Glitter opened new pathways for public humanities practices as well as conversations about race, memory, and healing in the state. This activist dance opera provides a model for historical intervention, community ritual, and intergenerational curriculum that holds the potential to transform how place and commemoration are approached through an intersectional lens.
The Haus of Glitter residency was made possible by a two-year PARKIST Artist Residency with The City of Providence Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism and the Parks Department. The purpose was to enable artist groups to animate little-used historic properties.
PUBLIC HUMANITIES SCHOLAR AWARD
The Dorr Rebellion Project Website
The Public Humanities Scholar Award recognizes outstanding public humanities work in teaching and scholarship that advances the civic and cultural life of Rhode Island. The Dorr Rebellion Project Website, a collaboration of the Phillips Memorial Library+Commons at Providence College, Erik Chaput, PhD, and Russell DeSimone, was launched in September 2011 and continues to grow and develop with the aim to establish an authoritative online educational resource on the Dorr Rebellion and to engage in new forms of discourse.
The Thomas Wilson Dorr Rebellion of 1841-43 challenged the bounds of American democracy, constitutionalism, and multiculturalism and is considered the most significant constitutional and political event to occur in Rhode Island history. Though largely unknown outside the Ocean State, the Dorr Rebellion continues to be relevant and instructive today.
This educational website, developed through a collaboration of Providence College’s Digital Publishing Services (Phillips Memorial Library), faculty, and community scholars, provides an introduction to the topic through a short-form documentary, image gallery, local constitutions, correspondence, supporting curricular materials, and links to regional resources. Partners include: The John Hay Library at Brown University, Finding Aid to the Thomas Wilson Dorr Papers, Brown Archival & Manuscript Collections, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and Rhode Island School of Design Museum.
The project illustrates the power of collaboration to ensure that humanities resources related to the history of civic health are publicly accessible.
More about Mónica Guzmán:
Mónica Guzmán is an award-winning journalist, bridge-builder, and the author of I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times. Guzmán also serves as director of digital and storytelling at Braver Angels, the nation’s largest cross-partisan grassroots organization working to depolarize America. She is host of a live interview series at the Pacific Northwest’s independent news outlet Crosscut and is cofounder of the award-winning Seattle newsletter The Evergrey. She was a 2019 fellow at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, where she studied social and political division, and a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, where she researched how journalists can rethink their roles to better meet the needs of a participatory public. She was named one of the 50 most influential women in Seattle and served twice as a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes. A Mexican immigrant, Latina, and dual US/Mexico citizen, she lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.
“Monica Guzman brings bad news and good news. The bad news is there is no answer for the problems of our polarized, toxic politics. The good news is, we don’t need answers. We need more questions. In this perceptive, wise, accessible book, Guzman shows us how to ask more humane questions of our fellow Americans. She shows us that by seeking truly to understand rather than judge, every one of us can improve our country’s civic culture. Curiosity cures. Read this book, then live it.”—Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University, and author, You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen