Happy Holidays from Humanities Washington

Humanities Washington’s executive director reflects on 2015.



It’s ten minutes before 7:00 p.m. and Seattle’s Naked City Brewery and Taphouse is packed. Too packed. All available seats inside are taken and a line of hopeful patrons extends out the front door into the chilly October night. Those waiting peer anxiously through the door at the jostling crowd inside, but in the end more than thirty people are turned away.

Are they broadcasting a Seahawks playoff game? World Cup soccer?  No, the event that has attracted this passionate and engaged crowd is a Humanities Washington Think & Drink titled “Black and Blue: Policing and Race.”

This Think & Drink event – as with others in our Race, Place and Culture series – has struck a nerve. Relations in Seattle between law enforcement and the black community are, as in many parts of the country, tense, and attempts to discuss the history and solutions can erupt in violence. But what transpired at Naked City that October night wasn’t destructive or a shallow rehashing of talking points; the people who gathered that night were curious to gain new perspectives and engage in honest, respectful dialogue.

When I think about Humanities Washington’s work in 2015, this night stands out. It stands out for me because people are willing to stand in line to have these tough conversations. They know that the online comments sections of blogs, newspapers, or Facebook cannot substitute for an in-person discussion with their neighbors.  They set aside their prejudices and preconceived ideas, and take time out of their busy lives to sit down next to strangers and search for truth and a mutually respectful path forward.

This is not the case in many places. A colleague recently attempted to conduct the same type of program in the Midwest; other patrons complained and the restaurant was antagonistic despite agreeing to host the program in the first place. Our Washington audiences are unique, and I am grateful that they are willing to show up and engage in these tough conversations for the benefit of the common good. It makes me exceedingly proud to be a Washingtonian and bolsters my and our terrific staff’s commitment to continuing this good work.

We saw an outpouring of attention from communities around Washington this year. Think & Drink attendance rose, with standing-room-only events in Yakima, Tacoma, and Seattle. We quadrupled the reach of our Prime Time Family Reading and laid a solid base for the future by training new scholars, librarians, and community organizers for the program. We were proud to partner with numerous cultural organizations by distributing $91,000 in NEH grant funds and were immensely gratified to receive significant corporate and foundation funding from the likes of the Satterberg Foundation, the Wockner Foundation, the Boeing Company, Amazon.com, the Fordham Street Foundation, Safeco Insurance, and others.

Thanks to this curiosity and generosity, we feel tremendous momentum as we move into next year. While the holiday season is time for celebration, we feel like much of this year has already been a celebration thanks to the people of Washington State. We are grateful for your interest and partnership.

We wish you all the best this holiday season and look forward to another terrific year in 2016!




PS:  If you have not yet made a contribution in 2015, it is not too late.  Go here to make a one-time contribution of cash or stock, or to join our Spark Society with monthly contributions.

1 thought on “Happy Holidays from Humanities Washington”

  1. Gary Graham says:

    Well said, Julie. You and your team do wonderful work all year long, but I am especially fond of the Think & Drink series.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.