Tag Archives: humanities

Arizona Humanities Festival

Ballet Folklorico Esperanza performs at the Arizona Humanities Festival in Phoenix

I headed to Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix Saturday for an event called the “Arizona Humanities Festival: Stories of Us,” presented by the Arizona Humanities Council — and sponsored by APS and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

The all-day festival was designed as “a celebration of the cultures that surround us, the stories that define us, and the histories that connect us.”

A family activity area featured storytelling, face painting, Chinese calligraphy, Day of the Dead mask-making and much more. Characters like Maya & Miguel strolled through the crowd, posing with children for pictures. And various performers, including those pictured below, took to the stage. 

Face painting at the festival’s Dias de los Muertos Activity Center

Miguel and Maya with two girls attending the Arizona Humanities Festival

A pair of works (L) from the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center activity area

Traditional Chinese Lion Dancers preparing for a second performance

One of several groups that performed works with multicultural flair

Scenes from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown by ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre

The first of several dances performed by Ballet Forklorico Esperanza

A high-energy performance by Fushicho Daiko/Phoenix Taiko Drummers

Various speakers gave presentations in ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism building — on topics ranging from Anne Frank to pioneering women artists in Arizona. Nearby, attendees learned about things like hip hop and Arizona’s identity in Western movies.

Plenty of humanities-related organizations had booths at the festival — including the Central Arizona Museum Association, the Braille and Talking Book Library, the Arizona Authors Association and many more.

One of several exhibitors at Saturday's Arizona Humanities Festival in Phoenix

Folks who missed Saturday’s festival can enjoy other events presented by the Arizona Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities founded in 1973. Visit them online at www.azhumanities.org to learn more.

— Lynn

Note: According to the Arizona Humanities Council, the humanities include history, literature, languages, linguistics, philosophy, law, archeology, comparative religion, anthropology, ethics, art history and more.

Coming up: More fun with festivals

Photo credit: Lynn Trimble


Arts in Education Week

During a recent episode of “Jeopardy,” the final question required knowledge of both children’s literature and opera. Think Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” meets Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Only one contestant seemed to know much about either — and he walked away with the cash. I’m guessing there’s an art teacher he ought to be thanking back home.

It’s been heartening to see arts and culture play such a pivotal role in 9/11 anniversary ceremonies. Sunday’s event at the newly opened 9/11 Memorial in NYC featured Yo-Yo Ma, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Emi Ferguson, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Opening remarks by Michael Bloomberg quoted Shakespeare, and poetry was prevalent throughout.

The Pushcart Players perform one of five school shows offered by Mesa Arts Center this season

Too often our nation forgets all that has been forged by arts and culture, and fails to appreciate the role they can play in moving us forward. So I’m delighted that Congress passed a bill last year designating the second week of September “National Arts in Education Week.”

For those who love the arts, no explanation of their impact or importance is needed. Art is an instinct, in impulse. An adventure of imagination as necessary as air. For others, they seem a mere nicety at best — perhaps because the joys of art never touched their lives as children.

But those unmoved by art’s aesthetic power should recognize its more tangible benefits. Art creates jobs. Creates cities where people want to live. Creates schools full of innovators and imaginators. Maybe even the “creative class” touted by a presidential candidate in his stump speeches.

Ninety percent of Arizonans believe that arts education is either important or very important, according to results of a public opinion poll conducted by ASU in May 2009 — a poll cited in the background report for this year’s Arizona Town Hall, the first of 98 Arizona Town Halls to focus on Arizona arts and culture. www.aztownhall.org.

The Arizona Arts Education section of the report was authored by Mandy Buscas (then director of arts learning for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, now the arts education outreach coordinator for Mesa Arts Center) and Lynn Tuttle (director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education).

MAC presents Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for grades K-6

Their work considers results of the 2009 Arts Education Census. It also looks at federal, state and local educational policies — noting that state support for arts in education has suffered significant losses of late due to “efforts to close significant stage budget shortfalls.”

Their reporting on the arts census notes that “20% of schools offered no courses in any arts discipline” and that “79% of schools spend less than $1 per year per student for arts instruction.” This despite the fact that U.S. employers rank creativity/innovation among the top five skills growing in importance.

So what can be done to move Arizona forward? A report issued after the Arizona Town Hall on arts and culture says that “Arizona residents need to speak up, stand for what we support, and make that support known at the ballot box at all levels, from the legislature, to the superintendent of public instruction, and to local school boards.”

It sounds rather daunting if you’re not accustomed to advocating for issues with local and stage officials, but there are plenty of resources to help you get started — including Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

The report also urges the arts and culture community to partner with the business community to “lobby for improved arts education” — and calls on nonprofit organizations and arts professionals in our communities to “continue augmenting arts education in the schools.” Think artist residencies, school field trips and such.

There’s plenty we can do as parents. Volunteer to help with art projects in the classroom. Coordinate field trips to places like libraries, performing arts venues, museums and exhibit spaces. Donate art-related supplies to local schools. Urge schools to integrate arts learning into other subjects. Vote art at every opportunity.

MAC presents Native American Song & Dance for grades K-12

Folks who separate art from the other disciplines, orchestrating false dichotomies that pit science and math against music and theater should learn more about artists like Emi Ferguson, a distinguished student of both music and epidemiology. Or scientists like Oliver Sacks.

To learn more about arts and education in Arizona, sign up for the free arts learning newsletter from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. www.azarts.gov.

The latest issue features details on the Poetry Out Loud program, a student art competition, an opportunity to participate in the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program, Target field trip grants, teacher workshops and more.

As for the “Jeopardy” answer that won the big bucks, it was “Pooh-bah.”

— Lynn

Note: Additional arts in education resources include the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (www.pcah.gov), Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org) and the Arts Education Partnership (www.aep-arts.org). Learn more about Mesa Arts Center arts education programs at www.mesaartscenter.com.

Coming up: Country music meets arts and culture, Art meets airport, Who let the cats out?, Shakespeare meets Sweeney Todd

S.O.S. from arts advocates

Love the humanities? Here's a chance to show your support...

A national newscast Monday night tried explaining proposed cuts to the federal budget using a giant pie chart made of pennies.

I’m all for doing the math — but the coins were more distracting than demonstrative.

Not so for an e-mail alert I opened at around the same time, which read as follows…

The House of Representatives will be voting on a bill that would cut the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) appropriation by 7% which would mean a loss of $12 million. The NEH’s current budget is only 1/21,000th of the federal budget and costs about as much as a postage stamp per person. 

We need your help! Today and tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday, February 14th – 15th, the House of Representatives will debate these cuts.

Please show your support for the AHC and NEH by clicking here to send a message to your representative. 

A cut to NEH’s budget will directly impact the federal funds that support the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC). Since the inception of AHC in 1973, our programs and funding of approximately $10 million for public humanities projects have reached approximately 4 million people throughout Arizona.

The e-mail came from Brenda Thomson, executive director for the Arizona Humanities Council. You can click here to learn more about their work.

I can’t tell you whether or how to get involved — only remind you that these issues are often on the horizon, and there are all sorts of ways to register your input.

Additional resources for those interested in arts advocacy are the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. 

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Coming up: King Arthur tales, Stage mom turns audition judge

Photo: www.wvgazette.com

Update: President Obama just awarded the “Presidential Medal of Freedom” to 15 individuals — including four honored for work in the arts and humanities (poet Maya Angelou, artist Jasper Johns, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and VSA founder Jean Kennedy). It’s powerful evidence of the crucial role played by arts and culture in the very fabric of American life.

The fine art of civil discourse

In the aftermath of the tragic Tucson shooting that recently took the lives of six people and injured many more, there’s been a lot of debate about the role of rhetoric in fueling violence.

I haven’t any way of calculating the relative role of various factors in the shooting, but I began wondering that day about how we might begin to reclaim the fine art of civil discourse.

I started by exploring something called “Project Civil Discourse” — a “special initiative” of the Arizona Humanities Council.  The program is “a statewide effort to create respectful dialogue and discourse on public issues.”

There’s a dedicated “Project Civil Discourse” website that features information on speakers, readings and resources related to the topic of civil discourse.

I got to thinking about the role of arts and humanities in fostering civil dialogue the other day when I heard someone propose that schools pay math and science teachers more than teachers in other subjects.

The speaker detailed the relative scarcity of qualified teachers in these areas, and noted the importance of these fields in both national and international affairs. 

I can’t disagree with either point, but I have to wonder whether he’s heard the startling statistics about how poorly even college graduates fare these days in the reading and writing department.

I’m inclined to believe that arts and humanities form the foundation of civil society — and that they should never be valued (or funded) less than other fields of study or enterprise.

So I was especially pleased to learn that Arizona State University is readying to launch “Project Humanities” next month.

It’s “a yearlong celebration filled with public events, programs and activities that highlight faculty and student scholarship, research and creative activity” in the humanities.

The university-wide initiative includes all four campuses — and will focus on “Humanities at the Crossroads: Perspective on Place” during its inaugural year.

Fervent arts supporters have likely noticed recent upticks in calls to downsize or eliminate organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Public Radio.

It’s compelling evidence that many value the right to bear arms over the right to free speech.

Appreciating art is no longer enough. Those who create and love it must also advocate for it. Hence the importance of organizations like Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Seek out community resources offering education and training in the fine art of civil discourse — including colleges, libraries, museums, non-profits and cultural organizations.

And check out “iCivics” — an online tool founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to help improve the depth and breadth of civics education for American youth.

If you agree that the arts and humanities are at the very core of our democracy, you have plenty of opportunities to become a more engaged citizen working to assure their role in fostering and sustaining civil discourse is never neglected or forgotten.

— Lynn

Note: If you know of another organization or program specializing in civil discourse, please share it below to let our readers know

Coming up: A pair of posts featuring perspectives on bullying, Performance resume tips for child and teen actors

Photo: Wikipedia

Sharing cultures, enriching communities

Sharing cultures. Enriching communities.

The Arizona Humanities Council is on a mission…

Stories convey our history, traditions, social mores, beliefs and insights about what it means to be human. The Arizona Humanities Council creates opportunities for sharing these diverse stories through critical thinking and public discussion to better understand and appreciate one another, so that we can make informed decisions about our collective future.

Their calendar of AHC-funded events lists all sorts learning opportunities focused on arts and culture — including presentations, community book discussions and town halls — within five regions of Arizona.

This is welcome news for those who suspect that community, books and discussions are rapidly being replaced by cubicles, remote controls and keypads.

Here’s a brief sampling by theme…

Native Cultures

“Plainsong” book discussion at the Buckeye Public Library. “Historic Graffiti” at the Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Phoenix. “The Changing Economic Resources on Arizona’s Indian Reservations” and “Hopi Ponawit” at the Heard Museum (Phoenix). “Apache Culture Kit” at the Arizona State Museum (Tucson).

Arizona History

“Thornton Wilder’s Arizona Days” and “Arizona Place Names” at Sunland Village (Mesa). “Japanese-American Internment in Arizona” at the Heard Museum (Phoenix). “Postcard Images of Arizona: 1990-1920” at the Gila County Historical Society (Globe). “Radicalism in the Mountain West” at Payson Public Library. “Arizona’s War Town” at the Sedona Historical Society.


“Eating the Depression: New Deal Food” at the Arizona Capitol Museum (and other sites). “The Food of Arizona: Many Cultures, Many Flavors” at the Tucson Main Library.

Music & Dance

“Your Musical Brain: Can Music Make You Smarter?,” “Flamenco Dancing and Spanish Bullfighting,” and “The Music and Ritual of Arizona’s Native Americans” at the Tempe History Museum. “The Healing Art: How Does Music Soothe the Soul?” at the Pima County Public Library. “Romancing Arizona: Songs of Love and Marriage” at the Lake Havasu Museum of History.

Diverse Cultures

“The History of Mexico and Contemporary Issues” at Sunland Village East (Mesa). “2010 Mesa Latino Town Hall” at Mesa Community College. “A New Day in Babylon: African American and Mexican Relations” at the Arizona Historical Society Museum (Tempe). “Cuentos Chicanos” book discussion at Prescott Public Library. “First Annual Chinese American Symposium” panel discussion at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center.

Women’s Issues

“Women in Arizona History” at the Arizona Historical Society Museum (Tempe). “Witchcraze: The War Against Witches” at the Himmel Park Branch Library (Tucson). “The Women of Brewster Place” book discussion at Sierra Vista Public Library.

Literature & Writing

“The Origins and Development of Chicana and Chicano Literature” at the Arizona State Library (Phoenix). “Voices from the Literary West” and “Desert to Mountain: Arizona Writers Speak” at Prescott Resort. “Writings on the Edge: Borderlands Reading” at Payson Public Library. “To Kill a Mockingbird” book discussion at Buckeye Public Library.

Visual Art

“Visual Humor: Some Humorous Analogies between Language and Art” at Payson Public Library. “Images of Grandeur: Artists and Photographers of the Grand Canyon” at the Lake Havasu Museum of History.

Don’t be discouraged if events that interest you aren’t being held in your neck of the woods. Just seize the opportunity for a fun day trip or overnight adventure — allowing extra time to visit the museums and enjoy the performance art of the city you’re visiting.

Arizona is rich in diverse arts and culture — but it’s not going to come and ring your doorbell.

Get out there…


Note: Click here for a more detailed calendar of AHC-funded activities throughout Arizona — and check event details before you go to assure you have the most complete and comprehensive information available.

Also visit the AHC website at www.azhumanities.org for information about grant opportunities, Smithsonian exhibitions coming to Arizona, cultural heritage tourism and a variety of special projects including “Literature and Medicine,” “Project Civil Discourse” and more.

Coming up: Dance from around the world performed around the Valley, Musings on magic, “First Friday” highlights, Modern day storytellers