The Idaho Humanities Council may seem like a vague and academic group, but director Rick Ardinger says it can help communities grapple with some real-world problems.
Such as: Coping with population growth. Improving education. Luring tourists.
“We’re one of the very few organizations that give money to museums,” Ardinger said Monday. “They’re often the reason that people come to small towns.”
Historical museums need to conduct oral histories, preserve photographs, and improve exhibits. The Museum of North Idaho, Wallace Mining Museum and the Cataldo Mission are on the long list of beneficiaries.
“We fund a lot of real serious, important grunt work,” Ardinger said.
The council often pays for walking brochures of towns, added Ardinger, who envisions some future alliance with the Idaho Commerce Department.
Right now, the Idaho Humanities Council gets no state funding. That’s true of 20 of the 50 state councils, Ardinger said.
The council’s current annual budget of $400,000 comes from the National Council for the Humanities.
That federal funding is supplemented by private donations. For example, Boise Cascade Corp. added $20,000 to the $30,000 annual budget for the council’s speakers bureau.
The bureau provides 43 speakers and 87 topics, including ethnic heritage, the environment, and history of the West. Organizations that invite the experts pay nothing: no travel, no honorarium, no lodging.
The humanities council bagged a really big donation last year: $1 million from the Albertson Foundation, for education-related programs. For the next three years, it will have $350,000 to spend on such things as a summer teacher institute, and a scholars-in-the-schools program.
“In the past, the humanities council targeted the adult, out-of-school audience,” Ardinger said.
Ardinger is in North Idaho to explain how people can apply for grants.
“My job is to coach people through the grant process,” he said. “We encourage people to submit rough drafts, and we suggest how to improve them.”
The council’s grant deadlines are in May, September and January.
Deciding who gets how much money is the task of the council’s 18-person board, which includes nine academics. The northern-most members are Cynthia Hammond of Post Falls, Marilyn Levine of Lewiston, Allison McClintick and William Prosser of Coeur d’Alene, and Kurt Olsson of Moscow.
Grants often range from $5,000 to $10,000. For example, the “Journey through Time” history program under way at North Idaho College this week received $6,150. The council frequently pays for public radio and television productions, and research that yields books and lectures.
It’s challenging to explain the council’s mission, Ardinger said. “Humanities” is defined as the branches of learning concerned with thought and relations, especially literature, philosophy and history.
Unlike arts projects, Ardinger said, “you don’t think of grassroots philosophy projects.”
But he gave an example: The southeastern Idaho town of Driggs, scrambling to keep up with spillover growth from the Jackson Hole resort area, is seeking grants for discussion of the change in its traditional farming culture.
“You can have civic discourse - not just debate - about growth,” Ardinger said.
The Idaho Humanities Council is celebrating its 25th year. Another milestone on Ardinger’s mind is the year 2000. He’s encouraging people and organizations to apply for grants that will commemorate the coming millenium.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SPEECH Rick Ardinger of the Idaho Humanities Council will speak at 7 p.m. tonight at the Wallace Inn-Best Western in Wallace. As he did Monday in Sandpoint, Ardinger will explain what kind of grant money is available and how to apply for it. More information on the council is available from its office in Boise. The toll-free phone number is (888) 345-5346.
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