The Federation of State Humanities Awards Two Schwartz Prizes for Outstanding Humanities Public Programming at the 2021 Virtual National Humanities Conference

Winning council programs from Nevada Humanities and Minnesota Humanities Center

November 12, 2021 [Arlington, VA] – During a virtual evening ceremony on Friday, November 12, 2021 at the 2021 Virtual National Humanities Conference, the Federation of State Humanities Councils presented the 2021 Schwartz Prize for outstanding work in the public humanities to two humanities councils for public humanities programming supported or conducted by a humanities council in 2020: one to Nevada Humanities for “Humanities Heart to Heart” and the other to Minnesota Humanities Center for “How Can We Breathe.” 

“In a year that demanded so much from our humanity, these programs brought opportunities for community members to express themselves, gather together, and provide much-needed context for what we were experiencing as a nation,” said Phoebe Stein, president of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. “The winning programs grounded communities in vital conversations about racism, healing, and the complexity of humanity, and underlined the importance of innovation and creativity in moments of crisis.”

The Schwartz Prize was established in 1982 as an endowment by founding Federation Board Member Martin Schwartz and his wife Helen.


“Humanities Heart to Heart” Nevada Humanities

Nevada Humanities developed and launched “Humanities Heart to Heart,” its first entirely virtual program, in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Envisioned in April 2020 and launched in July 2020, “Humanities Heart to Heart” is an ongoing program series that features commissioned essays and creative works by a wide spectrum of diverse Nevadans about the day-to-day concerns of what it means to be human in a time of isolation, loneliness, uncertainty, and cycles of rebuilding and retreat. Judges praised the way this program promoted “creative activity across several media” platforms and embraced “a wide variety of participants… filling in for a lack of in-person programming.” Additionally, the judges were impressed by the council’s “innovative use of Instagram” resulting in 47,000+ views and the “interesting outgrowths of the programs” including collaborations with Desert Research Institute, Renown Health, and partnerships with the state, NEH, private donors, and foundations. This is the first time Nevada Humanities has won a Schwartz Prize.

“How Can We Breathe” Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC)

Created in response to murder of George Floyd in 2020, “How Can We Breathe” was a series of virtual community conversations and public engagement opportunities focused on amplifying Black knowledge, bringing together diverse community members, and providing a space to encourage healing, dialogue, and compassion. Led by 35 African American leaders, elders, professionals, youth, and artists with 88 organizational partners, the series connected more than 300 participants. By leveraging MHC’s resources, “How Can We Breathe” created a platform to lift up authentic community voices to help understand and reflect on the stories, histories, and perspectives of those impacted by the horrific events around Floyd’s murder.

Judges said this program “demonstrated the unique collaborations that bridged the council with community partners” and “represented an important investment model to serve the targeted communities.” A judge noted that the project was “timely, community-centered, rooted deep in the humanities, and offered a wrap-around approach that cultivated different segments of communities impacted” and that the organizers “saw themselves as first responders to the dual crises of COVID and racism unfolding in their city.” Judges noted that the nomination helped “thousands of grieving citizens” and provided “brave spaces for vital conversations about America’s original sin.”

This is the second time Minnesota Humanities Center has won a Schwartz Prize. Minnesota Humanities Center won their first Schwartz Prize in 2021 for “Why Treaties Matter,” a program that “explores relationships between Dakota and Ojibwe Indian Nations and the US government in the place we now call Minnesota.”


Founded in 1977, the Federation of State Humanities Councils is the national member association of the US state and jurisdictional humanities councils. The Federation’s purpose is to provide leadership, advocacy, and information to help members advance programs that engage millions of citizens across diverse populations in community and civic life.


The state humanities councils are independent nonprofit organizations supporting and creating grassroots humanities programs and community-based activities. Humanities councils were established by Congress in the early 1970s and receive an annual congressional appropriation through the National Endowment for the Humanities, which most councils supplement with state and private funding.