June 7, 2019 – The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities will honor The White Family, Silaphone Nhongvongsouthy, Edible Schoolyard at Green Animals Topiary Garden, and Joe Wilson, Jr. at the 2019 Celebration of the Humanities in October.
“These inspired leaders exemplify this year’s Celebration theme of IMAGINE at a time when our society is yearning for positive pathways to the future,” said Elizabeth Francis, executive director of the Humanities Council. “Their philanthropic legacy, recognition of the value of cultural heritage, imaginative uses of historic spaces, collaborative spirit, and engaged scholarship showcase how the humanities can be used to imagine new paths.”
Honorary Chairs’ Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities
The White Family, Philanthropic Leaders
The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates career achievements that demonstrate humanities excellence, reflect the Council’s mission and core values, and enrich public life in Rhode Island. The 2019 Award recognizes The White Family, including John, Jr., Liz, and sons John III and Ben, for the sustained and meaningful ways they have supported the civic fabric of Rhode Island for years, carrying on the legacy established by John and Happy White. Through their foundation, The White Family has fostered a culture of philanthropy that puts the humanities at the center, establishing endowments at Brown University’s Taubman Center and the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, as well as a College of Arts and Sciences at Johnson and Wales University, and a Center for Ethics and Public Policy at the University of Rhode Island. They are committed to sponsoring initiatives that provide access to arts and culture including the RI Philharmonic and Providence Performing Arts Center, and also ensure that employees at their family-owned international HVAC business, Taco, have access to continuing educational opportunities at institutions like the Rhode Island School of Design. Their vocal and effective advocacy for the National Endowment for the Humanities in recent years highlights a deep understanding of the direct links between humanities, vibrant economic growth, and innovative development across many sectors.
Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities
Silaphone Nhongvongsouthy, Intercultural Program Developer
The Tom Roberts Prize celebrates creativity in topics, disciplines, and formats that extend the field of the humanities. This year, the Prize honors Silaphone Nhongvongsouthy, a leader of the Laotian Community Center, which promotes cultural identity and heritage. Silaphone has developed programs for youth leadership and traditional Lao art through youth dance programs, instruction in traditional musical instruments, and cross-cultural storytelling. She is an alum of the RI Expansion Arts Program and has built intercultural collaborations with local, national, and global cultural organizations including the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Black Storytellers, the Lao Heritage Foundation, and cultural leaders from Sri Lanka.
Innovation in the Humanities Award
Edible Schoolyard at Green Animals Topiary Garden
Recognizing the innovative implementation of the humanities by an organization to achieve a specific goal, this year’s Award is presented to the Edible Schoolyard at Green Animals Topiary Garden, a historic house and landscape in Portsmouth, RI, managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County. The Edible Schoolyard program teaches healthy nutrition and sustainability using garden activities consistent with Rhode Island Grade Span Expectations. Beginning in 2017 thanks to grant funding from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the Edible Schoolyard program now serves more than 350 Aquidneck Island students annually. The program connects the humanities to food, the garden, and design while utilizing this historic property as a an outdoor classroom, teaching students the links between our environment and our social and cultural lives.
Public Humanities Scholar Award
Joe Wilson, Jr., Educator, Advocate, and Actor
The Scholar Award recognizes outstanding public humanities work in teaching and scholarship that advances the civic and cultural life of Rhode Island. This year, the Award honors Joe Wilson, Jr. for the ways he employs his skills and talents as an actor to advocate for the importance of civic life, education, and amplifying the voices and stories of underrepresented communities in the public sphere. A consummate performer, Joe has performed On Broadway in multiple Tony-nominated shows, Off-Broadway, and in regional theaters around the country while also teaching, lecturing, and writing his own works. He has taught acting, art activism, and lectured at universities, theaters and conferences around the country. Joe’s scholarship has led him to research and write a play about American jazz composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn and to explore in deeply meaningful ways the artist’s role as activist and community advocate. Entering his 15th season as a member of the Resident Acting Company at Trinity Repertory Company, Joe also serves as Trinity’s Coordinator of Activism through Performance, is the Founder of Trinity Rep’s Center for Activism and Performance, and produces the annual community art making collaboration “America Too.” Joe is currently on the Board of Directors of the Southside Cultural Center, the Manton Avenue Project, and the Center for Reconciliation all in Providence, RI.
The Celebration will take place Thursday, October 17, 2019, at the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel. The occasion will gather nonprofit, government, legal, higher education, and business leaders, scholars, and community members from across the state. The awards presentation will be accompanied by a reception with hors d’oeuvres and an open wine bar provided by Campus Fine Wines, as well as a silent auction featuring unique humanities experiences.
Opportunities for sponsorships and event program ads are available now and tickets will go on sale in July. Proceeds benefit public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. Click here for details about sponsorship levels and benefits. For more information call 401-273-2250 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.