This 3 Questions Series offers the chance to learn more about board members, grantees, and longtime supporters of the Humanities Council. In the coming months the Council will continue to share these conversations as a window into the people who make up the Council’s unique network.
Josh Stenger, PhD (he/him/his)
Professor of Film and New Media, Wheaton College
Lives in Pawtucket, RI
As you join the Humanities Council’s board, what do you find most interesting or exciting about the Council’s work? Or what are you hoping to learn more about through your board service?
Where to start?
Given the tumultuous state of American life at present, I have to say that in terms of recent and/or current initiatives, Culture Is Key stands out as an especially important example of how the Council supports vital and transformative public humanities projects throughout Rhode Island. Through its efforts to make more explicit the role cultural organizations play in fostering civic engagement, Culture Is Key reminds us that storytelling and sensemaking are closely linked, that strong communities are engaged communities, and that when the world puts up walls and moats, the humanities provide ladders and bridges.
There is so much I am looking forward to learning through my participation on the board. At the top of my list is that I can’t think of a better way to learn about and interact with some of the amazing individuals, groups, and organizations throughout the state whose work supports and is supported by the Council.
The future of the humanities in higher education has arguably never been more precarious even though the need for them has perhaps never been greater. As someone who is passionate about promoting the value and importance of the humanities both within and beyond academia, I am excited by the prospect of meeting and working with others who share this passion and from whom, I’m sure, I have much to learn.
How do you interact with Rhode Island’s humanities and cultural sector personally and/or professionally? Can you share a favorite program, exhibit, project, performance, screening, or other humanities activity you’ve participated in recently and what you took away from that experience?
I interact with Rhode Island’s humanities and cultural sectors in many ways, but my most long standing and regular interaction is with The Public’s Radio. I have listened to and been a supporter of TPR for years, and I consider it to be an absolutely vital source of reliable information and thoughtful reporting at a time when both are in critically short supply. I’m also a fan of a number of podcasts that are either produced in or focused on Rhode Island: Sara Elizabeth Corben’s Weird Island, The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs’ Trending Globally: Politics and Policy, hosted by Sarah Baldwin and Dan Richards, Alexander Herbert’s Rhode Island History Project, season one of Gimlet Media’s Crimetown, and of course the too-short-lived joint venture between the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and The Public’s Radio, (PRESS)ed. As is true of the medium in general, these podcasts provide both episodic and serialized encounters with Rhode Island history, culture, and storytellers. Even when their focus looks outward to the national or the global, each in its own way feels distinctly ‘Rhode Island’.
You have lived in several different places – what is it about living in Rhode Island that you find compelling?
Stand under the dome at the state house and nothing about Rhode Island feels ‘small’. I’ve lived here for over twenty years now and this state continues to amaze and surprise. There is so much history here, and so much innovation: continuity and change, tradition and transformation. Rhode Islanders value this state’s past but not at the expense of its future. As a result, I feel like no matter where I find myself, there is virtually always something to discover.
Learn more about Josh and other board member by reading their biographies here.