2012 Schwartz Prize Winners

The Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Tennessee councils were awarded the 2012 Schwartz Prize for excellence in the public humanities by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Federation board member Kate Stephenson of Tennessee delivered the awards presentation speech at the 2012 National Humanities Conference in Chicago, Illinois.

The Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize is awarded annually to up to three programs for outstanding work in the public humanities. These prizes are funded through an endowment from former Federation board members, Helen and Martin Schwartz.

This year, the judges awarded prizes in three categories. But before we announce the winners, the Federation of State Humanities Councils would like to recognize and thank Judy Dobbs, Program Officer at the Maryland Humanities Council; Carolyn Bell, Board Member at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; and Keira Amstutz, Executive Director at Indiana Humanities for serving as this year's judges.

The first Schwartz Prize goes to a program that gives voice to an important "absent narrative" about the relationship between the state's indigenous people and settlers. For this program, the council worked with 11 Native American communities in its state to establish a traveling exhibit complete with interviews, speakers, guided tours, QR codes and onsite monitors. One of the host sites already posted a 60 percent increase in attendance as a direct result of the exhibit. By the end of this year, the exhibit is expected to reach more than 20,000 people. The council has also developed educational resources and an interactive website to further the program's reach.

One judge praised the project for involving "significant partnerships, with input from a broad range of voices that are not always heard. The project has resulted in capacity building for host sites and has leveraged other events. The curriculum guide is a lasting contribution for educators and students in the state."

The Federation is proud to present a 2012 Schwartz Prize for "Most Powerful Telling of Untold Stories" to the Minnesota Humanities Center for "Why Treaties Matter."

The second Schwartz Prize is awarded to a program that responds to the decline in newspaper coverage of books and writers by creating a website that provides reviews, interviews, excerpts, essays and poetry for local authors and those touring in the state, and has become the state's primary literary resource. Strategic partnerships with local media help increase readership by providing advanced knowledge of content to papers and the ability for those papers to have specific pieces edited and delivered for their deadlines. The articles reach between 48,000 and 156,000 people weekly through local papers and between 300,000 and 9.5 million online visitors a month on third-party sites. Aside from their media partners, the program uses social media to extend its reach and currently has more than 1,300 Facebook and 290 Twitter followers.

The Federation is proud to present a 2012 Schwartz Prize for "Most Creative Use of Web to Promote Reading and Writing" to Humanities Tennessee for "Chapter 16."

The final Schwartz Prize is for "Best Overall Program." This award goes to a program that one judge said was the "strongest for contemporary relevance, grass-roots appeal and outreach to partner organizations." Designed to attract a diverse audience, the program is a statewide multi-year initiative in which this council collaborates with local groups to organize public shared readings of Fredrick Douglass' 1852 speech, "The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro." The project started in 2009 with one public reading and drew a crowd of 100 people. In 2011, events involved more than 70 organizations and in 2012 drew more than 650 people.

To complement the events and to encourage cities and organizations to set up their own events, this council also created a web resource for the program's materials, including instructions on how to initiate the events with minimal council involvement.

All the judges were impressed with how this program crossed divisions of race, age, education and ethnicity while engaging audiences new to the humanities.

The Federation is proud to present the 2012 Schwartz Prize for "Best Overall Program" to Mass Humanities for "Reading Fredrick Douglass."