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Missouri Humanities Council--Part 1

RANDY STEWART: The Missouri Humanities Council currently serves more than 80,000 Missouri residents in more than 50 counties and the city of St. Louis through various programs and grants. I talked with Humanities Council Executive Director Geoff Giglierano about their mission.GEOFF GIGLIERANO: The Missouri Humanities Council is one of the 56 state and territorial Humanities Councils affiliated with National Endowment for the Humanities. Been around for 40 years, to help encourage and support the humanities—history, literature, religion, philosophy, archeology, languages, law—for diverse audiences in the state of Missouri. Adults, kids and families—we do a lot with families with young children, encouraging reading. We do a lot with the universities—conferences and programs to help teachers keep up in the humanities, and to get resources that help them do their job. We help the rural communities through programs like “Museums on Main Street,” where we bring Smithsonian traveling exhibits to smaller communities, and help them develop their own exhibits to tell their own stories. We also have consulting services and grants, so we help libraries, small museums, and community organizations.RANDY: Much of the Missouri Humanities Council’s operating support comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in a sort of state and federal partnership.GEOFF: Part of what we do with our funds pays for the programs, but also gets distributed as grants to local communities, local organizations.RANDY; Giglierano acknowledges that this federal support is shrinking.GEOFF: In the past years it’s been about 74, 75 percent. Our budget this year was like 67 percent. The fact of the matter is, the world is changing, and we need to diversify our sources of support. So, going to private foundations, to corporations, to individuals—we are looking for sponsors for various programs. There are foundations that have very clear missions, like early childhood reading and literacy.RANDY: So you can go to them specifically then.GEOFF: Exactly. And that’s the kind of thing that we’ve been working on. But there’s still a necessary level of PUBLIC funding at this point. And it’s going to be a process to transition into a more diverse funding situation, but we’re aware of the need to do that and we’re working towards that. And I think we’ve got a good start on it.RANDY: You’re actually looking at it almost like an opportunity to expand your horizons in a way.GEOFF: You know, that’s a good way of putting it—it IS an opportunity. And not that I’m Pollyanna or anything here, but we look at this as a partnership—folks coming to us and saying, “Hey we’ve got this idea….” And so we’re all working together to do something that people are saying, “We see value to this—we see a NEED to it.” And looking for partners to support it and make it work, I think, strengthens the programs and gives them depth. It’s not just about money, it’s about collaboration.RANDY: A major goal of the Missouri Humanities Council, outlined in their five-year plan, is to expand their services from just under half of all counties in Missouri, to the 100 percent level. Geoff Giglierano says to do that will involve more partnerships—for example, with organizations like the Missouri History Museum and the State Historical Society.GEOFF: Together, if we’ll pool our resources, we can do a much better job and a more cost-effective job.RANDY: And, he says, there are more than just “feel-good” benefits to all this.GEOFF: A lot of what we do is helping people understand how they can preserve and tell their stories in a way that’s engaging and meaningful. There is economic development opportunity in that.RANDY: The Missouri Humanities Council has been one of the Cultural Partners, with the Missouri Arts Council, that benefited from trust-fund money taken from the Athletes and Entertainers special tax.GEOFF: It’s a relative modest amount—this year the Governor asked for $200,000 on our behalf. Not a whole lot of money, which is fine. I mean, you know the reality is, the state has to balance its budget. But we’re certainly trying to communicate with the legislators and remind them that we do things in their communities, particularly the reading programs.RANDY: Giglierano requests that Missourians contact their legislators to ask them to be supportive of the humanities on both the state and national levels.GEOFF: The other thing, of course, is we’re a 501 C-3—we’re non-profit. We take donations, and we’ll put it to work in communities around Missouri.RANDY: One of the Missouri Humanities Council’s most important initiatives involves literacy and early reading. This afternoon at 4:30 we’ll hear from people working in that area who are hoping the Humanities Council can continue to fund—and expand—these programs.