Statewide Scope Provides Opportunity to Bring Diverse Communities Together

Executive Director Julie Ziegler’s recent travels around Washington have reinforced her thinking about the need for programs that bring Washingtonians from diverse walks of life together in conversation.

Julie Ziegler

Julie Ziegler, Humanities Washington executive director

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Spokane to audition presenters for our 2012-14 Speakers Bureau. It’s what I enjoy most about leading this fine organization – the opportunity to visit Washington’s different regions and experience firsthand the rich humanities experiences we help bring to people throughout the state.

Geographic diversity comes with the territory: Humanities Washington is a statewide organization with a mission to bring high-quality, free cultural programs to every corner of the state. But nurturing engaged and thoughtful communities requires more than just staging programs in a variety of towns.

During my travels, I frequently hear our cultural differences described as barriers that make it difficult for us to agree on a vision for the future. This is where Humanities Washington’s statewide work really makes a difference: Our programs provide opportunities for dialogue that cross the Cascade divide, bridges liberal and conservative political viewpoints, and builds appreciation for the unique perspectives of our state’s culturally and economically diverse populations.

In the last month alone, our Speakers Bureau brought programs to Anacortes, Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Colville, Ellensburg, Friday Harbor, Kettle Falls, Keyport, Lacey, Leavenworth, Lynden, Nine Mile Falls, Northport, Olympia, Pasco, Port Angeles, Redmond, Renton and Shaw Island. More importantly, our presenters served as a bridge, bringing new perspectives and sparking new conversations.

One of our speakers, Rebecca Hom, recently visited Northport Community Library in Stevens County to talk about the role Chinese pioneers played in settling the Western frontier. The presentation “helped address cultural issues we cannot normally afford to address,” wrote Teah Chadderdon, the branch library manager. She noted the library system could not provide such programing without Humanities Washington.

This is just one example of how our current programs – speakers, exhibits, family reading, grants – encourage conversation and critical thinking, and enrich our lives.

New initiatives look to build on these successes while meeting local needs. This fall, we’re expanding popular Bedtime Stories literary gala to Spokane. Our websites – and the online magazine Spark – use digital tools to reach Washingtonians in all 39 counties. And, soon, we’ll soon be announcing an exciting new partnership that will bring museum-quality exhibits to unexpected venues and underserved areas throughout the state.

Later this week our trustees will gather in Central Washington for a quarterly meeting. They’ll have the opportunity to see the new arts and humanities community of Mighty Tieton and experience Yakima, “The Palm Springs of Washington.” I know they look forward to this statewide travel as much as I do. Who wouldn’t, considering what a terrific state we live in? A state where our differences are an opportunity and our stories should be celebrated and shared.

Till next month,

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