Hometown Humanities is a response to persistent challenges many humanities councils face: maintaining visibility without a public venue; getting recognition when most programs are supplied through grant support or a partnership with a familiar, local organization; balancing grants and programs between the relatively sophisticated, large, urban institutions and the smaller, more rural organizations; and most importantly, making a lasting impact on our state.
In a state as rural and dispersed as Montana, these challenges are particularly pronounced. Montana is ranked fourth in size, but 44thin population and 48th in population density of the 50 states. It has a total area of 147,042 square miles and is 630 miles wide and 255 miles north to south. Its breadth is nearly the distance from Chicago to New York City. With a tight budget, Humanities Montana has always found the vast distances both a funding and staff challenge.
Through this program Humanities Montana created a focused partnership with one Montana community, offering between 25-35 different humanities programs, organizational support, marketing support, and neighborly advice over the course of twelve months. Humanities Montana’s goals are to strengthen the relationship with a particular community, improve a community’s cultural infrastructure, increase their familiarity and comfort with Humanities Montana and their offerings, and break down barriers that may exist for smaller communities looking to create more ambitious cultural programming.
Judges were impressed with this council’s “original solution to a perennial problem [councils] have in the West – too much distance between communities to ever server them well,” and its “strategic focus of resources.” Another judge viewed this program as “essential program format research, and [believes] it to be a bold model for rural states.
This program won a Schwartz Prize in 2015 for outstanding work in the public humanities. To view the full nominating statement please click here.