March 5, 2021 – In February 2021, Sophia Mackenzie joined the Humanities Council team as Associate Director of Development. Sophia brings more than ten years of experience developing and implementing high-performing fund development programs to the Council. She is eager to apply her leadership and successful fundraising experience to support the Council’s individual giving, donor relations, and capacity-building initiatives in ways that connect Rhode Islanders and inspire cultural and civic participation.
Prior to joining the Council, Sophia served for four years as the director of development at New Urban Arts. Previous experience includes work with such cultural organizations as the Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center in her home state of Oregon. Sophia holds a BS in Political Science from Southern Oregon University and an MA in Socially Responsible Businesses and Sustainable Communities from Goddard College. Sophia recently completed the Professional Fundraising Certificate Program through Boston University and is currently enrolled in Tufts University’s Institute for Nonprofit Practice Core Program.
Sophia believes that philanthropy is a joyful and generous act—a way to engage deeply with our unique passions, support shared values, and invest in the riches our community has to offer.
Among other things, Sophia enjoys reading, sewing, bargain-hunting, and spending time in the great outdoors with her dog Lucy and husband Tom.
A Conversation with Sophia Mackenzie:
What attracted you to the Council in the first place?
I have long wanted to work with the Humanities Council. I became aware of the Council’s work as a former grantee. As a grantee, I admired the Council’s desire to support and mentor cultural organizations not just as a funder, but as a partner that cares deeply about the community—providing resources, mentorship, and connections.
In my short time at the Council, I have learned much more about the scope of the humanities programs and projects we seed and support. I feel deeply honored to be a part of an organization whose vision and mission align with my personal values.
How have you seen the Council make an impact on Rhode Islanders?
Over the past four weeks, I have had the privilege of participating in a number of virtual conversations and offerings that are part of the Council’s Why It Matters and Culture Is Key initiatives: a panel discussion with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and community leaders about the importance of voting; a newportFILM screening of MLK/FBI, detailing the extent to which MLK was harassed and targeted by the FBI; and Capture the Block: Stories from Ward 15, a collaborative project that shares stories about how the Olneyville, Silver Lake, and Valley neighborhoods, one of the hardest hit zip codes in the state, are coping with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While these are just some of the many initiatives the Council supports, they demonstrate the depth and breadth of the Council’s work putting the humanities into action in Rhode Island in an effort to strengthen, enrich, and honor our diverse communities and shared connections.
As Rhode Island, and the country, continue to navigate the challenges of a global pandemic – what role can the humanities play in bridging differences?
In times of crises, I am reminded of the importance of taking part in practices that lift our spirits, inspire, probe, and activate us: writing, conversations, creative practices, theater and performance arts, and engaging with our neighbors, cultural practices, and community in safe, thoughtful ways has proved all the more valuable over the past year. The humanities are the means by which we bridge differences and come together to learn, share, empathize, and heal.
What’s something you have read, watched, or listened to lately that’s been inspiring or thought provoking?
So many things; too many to name! As a voracious consumer of books and podcasts, I have an endless list of things to listen to and articles, magazines, and books to read. One magazine, in particular, stands out to me at the moment: my father recently gifted me with a subscription to the independent magazine The Sun. I find the stories, interviews, and writing to be deeply moving, profound, and personal: snapshots of life that are both awesome and tragic. After reading each issue, I feel a little bit more connected, a bit more conflicted and flawed, and deeply human.
What are you most excited about for the year to come?
I’m eager to connect with the Council’s community of grantees, partners, supporters, and friends in my work to grow the Council’s individual giving, donor relations, and capacity-building initiatives.
Rhode Island is steeped in rich public history, diverse cultural heritage, and has a wealth of contemporary cultural and civic leaders whose thought-provoking works and projects bind us together, increase our capacity for sharing and empathy, inspire dialogue, and help us better understand our lives and shared values. The Council works daily to seed, support, and strengthen this work through grants, partnerships, and initiatives—and I’m excited to build and deepen relationships that will advance the Council’s mission in ways that inspire cultural and civic participation. This work is bigger than one organization—it’s about enriching all of Rhode Island.