November 13, 2020 – In 2018, Scott Raker joined the Humanities Council team as Operations Officer, bringing his background in arts and culture management to the role as he focused on the administration and strategic development of the Council. Under his stewardship, the Council has integrated evaluative principles to strategic planning, budgeting, and operations processes; developed meaningful opportunities for interns to gain experience in the humanities; and managed transitions of staff and programs. Scott’s balanced approach to strategic planning has enabled the Council to be responsive to our community and navigate the ongoing challenges presented through 2020, ensuring that the organization remains strong in order to be able to best serve our grantees, partners, and community.
Prior to joining the Council, Scott worked with the arts service nonprofit Fractured Atlas in New York. He holds an MFA in Acting from the Brown University/Trinity Repertory MFA Program and a BA in Government and Legal Studies from Bowdoin College.
A Conversation with Scott Raker:
What attracted you to the Council in the first place and what have you found rewarding about your role?
Rhode Island was pivotal in my own education, first as an artist and then as an administrator in the cultural sector. The Council had a reputation in the state for bolstering researchers and nonprofits in the region that make a cultural impact. I was very interested in a position that had such a substantial community impact and jumped at the chance to work for an organization that bolsters the health of Rhode Island’s historical and cultural institutions.
The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act, which established both the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and was introduced to the Senate by Rhode Island’s own Senator Claiborne Pell, declares that “the arts and the humanities belong to all the people of the United States.” I feel very fortunate to work for the Humanities Council, the independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, supporting historic and cultural institutions by and for all Rhode Islanders.
How have you seen the Council make an impact on Rhode Islanders?
Returning to the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act, it discusses how the arts and humanities allow us to “recognize and appreciate… the diversity of excellence that comprises our cultural heritage.” Through an expanded knowledge of our past, of each other’s heritage, and of civics, the humanities provide us with the needed perspectives and tools to confront complex issues together. Over the last few years, I’ve been thrilled to see how the Council’s work strengthens our democracy and enriches our culture in Rhode Island. Whether it’s through the permanent dedication of a local landmark, or the enjoyment of a single evening’s performance, all of the Humanities Council’s partnerships, initiatives, and supported projects represent and create communities.
Have you seen the Council evolve over the past few years?
The past few years has seen the Council navigate a number of transitions for our small staff: a federal shutdown, pandemic, a further reckoning with social justice on the local, state, and national level, as well as ongoing challenges to civic education. Through what has been a tumultuous period, the clear mission, values, strategic direction, and steady leadership from Elizabeth Francis, our Executive Director, has allowed the Council to maintain integrity and find ways to expand our impact.
What are you most excited about for the year to come?
While seeing the pandemic’s impact on the Humanities Community in Rhode Island has been sobering, and the impact will continue for the foreseeable future, it’s been truly remarkable to see how Rhode Island’s public humanists have confronted the myriad challenges and adapted their programs, events, and operations. The Humanities Council plans to be right there with the community working to support whenever and wherever it is possible.