Humanities Council adapts to budget cuts

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Greensboro-based North Carolina Humanities Council could lose 10 percent to 50 percent of its funding under separate proposals under consideration in the U.S. House to reduce funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Those cuts, which would result from a bill by the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and from the budget from the Obama Administration, respectively, would compound financial stress on the statewide Council in the wake of a decision this year by state lawmakers to eliminate its funding, totaling roughly $50,000, effective July 1.

Formed in 1972 and one of 56 state humanities councils, the Council operates as an independent agency with an annual budget of roughly $1 million.

It receives about $800,000 a year from the National Endowment for the Humanities, generating the remainder through private support.

In the fiscal year that ended Oct. 30, 2012, it awarded $156,000 in grants to 175 nonprofits throughout the state and provided a range of educational programs throughout the state..

It provided free professional education development, for example, to teachers from 33 local education nonprofits and school districts through seminars in Chapel Hill, Cullowhee and Wilson.

It presented “Road Scholar” speakers in 56 counties to 7,000 individuals, and provided 131 scholars for “Let’s Talk About It” programs at public libraries throughout the state.

It presented a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution in the rural communities of Burgaw, Cullowhee, Wentworth and Wilson.

It granted up to $2,000 each in a handful of communities to encourage the use of digital technology to investigate local history, particularly in the areas of immigration, migration from within the U.S., adoption, and displacement of some population groups by others.

And it hosts reading and discussion groups, led by scholars, for health care professionals at Randolph Hospital in Asheboro, Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, and New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.

The council also sponsors the Linda Flowers Literary Award and the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities.

And in 2015 it will partner with the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program that will focus on sports in communities and will visit five or six communities throughout the state.

“We actually add a lot of economic dollars to rural areas and underserved communities and to existing communities that otherwise would not be having these kinds of programs,” says Paula Watkins, who joined the Council in July as executive director after serving as assistant director and South Carolina Book Festival director at The Humanities Council SC.

The Council’s programs “help citizens of our state grow in knowledge, skills, and understanding, not only of themselves but of each other,” she says. “These programs and the Humanities Council foster communities that become innovative, competitive and strong.”

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