As we move into December, holiday letters will soon pepper our mailboxes, catching us up (willingly or not) on friends’, family’s, and acquaintances’ activities over the past year. We here at Wyoming Humanities are no different in our desire to share what we’ve been up to over the past year. What follows are some of the special initiatives and programs we’ve done in 2016, funded in part by generous supporters like yourself.
One question that Wyoming Humanities pursued in 2016 was how do we as a society engage in civil debate over issues in which there are deep divides? A difficult topic that’s still relevant in this post-election nation, Wyoming Humanities hosted a series of conversations under the title “Civility Matters” that sought to address the issue from a variety of perspectives. A panel hosted in March at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and aired on Wyoming PBS revolved around refugee and immigration policy in Wyoming. Giving voice to the experiences of a former Congolese child soldier, a co-director of UW’s Center for International Human Rights Law and Advocacy, and a state representative advocating for Wyoming legislative authority over approval of a refugee resettlement plan, the panel took questions from a highly invested public; even after Wyoming PBS stopped airing the panel after an hour, questions continued to pour in and the livestream of the discussion went on. While the topic of these questions ranged from concerns about improperly vetted refugees becoming a national security threat to questions about Wyoming’s ethical responsibility to welcoming refugees, the panel agreed, in the words of Bertine Bahige, that “the most important thing we can do is to have honest conversations and break down [barriers].”
The public conversation on “Civility Matters” continued in September with a focus on both politics and art. In partnership with InterConnections 21 and Wyoming PBS, Wyoming Humanities co-hosted former U.S. Senator Al Simpson and former Wyoming Governor and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Mike Sullivan as they discussed whether reviving civility in politics is still possible. You can watch this discussion, with former Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite serving as moderator. That same month brought “The Bridge” to the state, an exhibit that showcased the work of 47 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish visual artists from 15 countries. Thanks to a grant from the Foundation for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming and in partnership with Wyoming Humanities and University of Wyoming, “The Bridge” exhibited in Laramie, Rock Springs, Lander, and Powell simultaneously, serving as a model and catalyst for other interreligious and intercultural programs held at each location. In the process “The Bridge” helped to provide a link not only within communities, but also between communities.
Along with the “Civility Matters” initiative, Wyoming Humanities partnered with other organizations to bring exciting conversations to the state. This summer saw the start of the Smithsonian’s travelling Museum on Main Street exhibition “Water/Ways” in Wyoming. The exhibit encourages visitors to think about the many relationships between people and water, and features local exhibits and programs at each Wyoming site. If you haven’t yet had a chance to explore the exhibit, it will be in Cheyenne in January and Sheridan in March; learn more here. Our long-time partnership with the University of Wyoming Outreach School also brought the return of “Saturday University.” Featuring free, engaging, and thought-provoking lectures and discussions led by distinguished Wyoming professors, topics this fall ranged from “The Power of Place: Outdoor Literature and Personal Identity” to “The Ecological Impacts of Our Plastic Footprint: Microplastics in Aquatic Environments” to “An Introduction to Islam for the Equality State.” Much like Museum on Main Street, more “Saturday U”s will happen in the upcoming months, so keep your eye out for upcoming events on our calendar!
This next year will see Wyoming Humanities continue the dynamic conversations that are so vital for our state. Along with our reading series, thinkWY Reading Wyoming, and thinkWY Road Scholars Tours, the next few months will see our new “Insight” events, featuring 7-10 short talks that focus on human stories—how and why we think and behave the ways that we do. The first 2017 Insight will be in Cheyenne, under the theme “Legends,” while Casper will host one in February in conjunction with the Casper College Humanities Festival with the theme of “Identity.”
If you’ve attended a program this past year or are looking forward to attending one in the future, please consider supporting Wyoming Humanities with an end-of-the-year contribution. Every individual donation to Wyoming Humanities helps to increase the impact of the humanities in our state. Now, more than ever, we need those conversations that create empathy and understanding. Please add your support to these dialogues by becoming a member today.