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About Wyoming Humanities

Wyoming Humanities is our state’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and an independent 501(c)3 non-profit governed by a board of private citizens who believe the humanities can help us better understand the issues of our times. 

Founded in 1970 in response to the National Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson, we are one of 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils. Wyoming was one of the first states to implement this independent nonprofit model to provide public humanities programs for our citizens.  

Our purpose is to use the humanities to strengthen our democracy, enhance the Wyoming narrative, and promote engaged communities. We bring together public and private funding to accomplish our goals and are a statewide organization that strives to serve all 23 counties and 99 communities of Wyoming every year.

Strengthening our democracy

We foster opportunities for communities to interact and discuss issues that are important to them. We use the humanities to explore the arts and sciences and to ask questions that give insight into the human experience by analyzing the past, exploring the present, and thinking about the future. Our programs bring scholars and subject matter experts to the entire state of Wyoming. Through our work, the humanities help the citizens of Wyoming take a closer look at life. 

Wyoming Humanities believes that a well-rounded citizen must be educated on the broader cultural forces that shape our democracy and the direction of our communities, state, and nation. A life-long learner wants to explore the ideas and forces that are influencing society and to do that we need open discussion grounded in facts and facilitated through experts. The humanities—the study of what makes us human,including history, literature, philosophy, religion, ethics, and much more—are the tools we use to take a closer look at the major issues of our times.

Supporting the Creative and Cultural Economy

Wyoming Humanities has the unique ability to bring together a network of individuals and organizations to complete projects that help our state explore the human experience. Nearly everything we invest in is a result of extensive collaboration—from a wide and diverse array of funders to the myriad scholars, experts, authors, artists, cultural advisors, and community organizers who provide generous gifts of time, intellectual capital, and leadership. 

We invest in grants to the hundreds of non-profit organizations that comprise Wyoming’s creative and cultural sector and also create our own programs customized to the needs of each community. Our work promotes critical thinking through discussions and other public programming that is facilitated by vetted scholars and uses educational elements that are well-conceived and appropriate for the intended audience. We also advocate for this economic sector to help strengthen them financially.

Downtown Cheyenne Wyoming

Our Mission

Strengthening Wyoming’s democracy through the humanities.

Our Vision

Enhancing the Wyoming narrative to promote engaged communities, improves our quality of life and enhances our economy.

Our Purpose

A five-decade affiliation with the National Endowment for the Humanities enables us to improve the quality of life in Wyoming through public programs in the humanities.

Our Strategic Plan

Read our strategic plan here.

Leading Wyoming's Cultural Infrastructure

• Be the primary point of contact for humanities and cultural projects
• Build capacity in other organizations through our humanities project expertise
• Become the recognized leader in advocating for a unified “Creative Economy” with greater stimulus investment from the State of Wyoming

Sparking Synergy Within and Between Communities

• Create new connections within and between communities
• Increase interdisciplinary programming (2 disciplines interacting together directly)
• Increase statewide interest in humanities/cultural programs

Developing Organizational Sustainability

• Strengthen operational capacity
• Enhance WYH stature and funding with State of Wyoming
• Achieve Legacy Fund goal
• Create succession strategy for leadership

Values in Action

All that we do can be clearly tied to a set of ideals that have guided our direction for five decades. They define our impact and are the building blocks of our organizational DNA. These are our core values in action.

1

FOSTER CRITICAL THINKING AND LIFELONG LEARNING through the public humanities

2

PROMOTING CIVICS AND DEMOCRACY to strengthen our democracy

3

RAISING CULTURAL AWARENESS to expand the Wyoming Narrative

4

ENGAGING COMMUNITIES to improve our quality of life

5

ENHANCING THE CREATIVE ECONOMY to support economic growth

Our History

Wyoming Humanities is one of 56 independent, nonprofit organizations that serve as state partners in the Federal/State Partnership program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a program mandated by Congress and funded through the NEH. We are also a member of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

1965

The United States Congress enacts legislation founding the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts based on the 1964 Report of the Commission on the Humanities.

1970

Six states (Georgia, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wyoming) become pilot models for the state humanities council concept. Many councils, including Wyoming, begin as grants to continuing/adult education programs at state land grant universities. The council is first housed at the University of Wyoming research Office. Early reports to NEH are signed by both “Roger Wilmot, Contracts and Grants,” and Audrey Cotherman, Continuing Education Department.”

1971

The “Wyoming Council for the Humanities” is incorporated as a 501(c)3 independent nonprofit organization. Audrey Cotherman is the first executive of the council and determines that the council should continue to be housed at the University of Wyoming but become independent from the university, following the example of other state humanities councils. The first council office is in the university’s Continuing Education Department at 9th and Lewis streets.

1980

David Tebaldi (currently the Executive Director for Massachusetts Humanities Council) joins the staff as associate director and becomes the second executive director shortly after. The council is firmly established on the university campus, with offices located at 1800 Willett.

1986

Dennis Frobish is hired as the third executive director and offices are moved to four rooms on the third floor in the southeast wing of Wyoming Hall.

1988

Bob Young is hired as the fourth executive director of the council.

1994

The council offices are relocated to 1315 East Lewis Street, former headquarters of Child Development Services, Home Economics Department, College of Agriculture.

2003

Marcia Wolter Britton is hired as the fifth executive director of the council.

2006

Wyoming Council for the Humanities changes name to Wyoming Humanities Council.

2010

The council opens an office in Jackson.

2013

The council hires Shannon D. Smith as its sixth executive director.

2016

The council rebrands as thinkWY | Wyoming Humanities

2020

The council will celebrate its 50th Anniversary.

To read about the history of the state humanities councils, read “Public Works: NEH, Congress, and the State Humanities Councils,” by Jamil Zainaldin in The Public Historian from February 2013, and “An Ongoing Experiment: State Councils, the Humanities, and the American Public,” an essay by Elizabeth Lynn funded by the Kettering Foundation in 2013.

Our History

1965

The United States Congress enacts legislation founding the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts based on the 1964 Report of the Commission on the Humanities.

1970

Six states (Georgia, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wyoming) become pilot models for the state humanities council concept. Many councils, including Wyoming, begin as grants to continuing/adult education programs at state land grant universities. The council is first housed at the University of Wyoming research Office. Early reports to NEH are signed by both “Roger Wilmot, Contracts and Grants,” and Audrey Cotherman, Continuing Education Department.”

Our Staff

Our staff consists on individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience, but all have a passion for the humanities.

Shannon Smith

Executive Director and CEO

Josh Watanabe

Director of Operations

Sheila Bircher-wade

Program Officer

Emy diGrappa

Executive Producer

Erin Pryor-Ackerman

Director of Grants and Community Engagement

Partners, Collaborators, Sponsors & Underwriters

Wyoming Humanities partners with many public and private organizations and individuals in order to accomplish our mission.These partnerships enable us to reach all 23 counties and 99 communities of the state.

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