2021 in Review: SDHC’s End of Year Highlights

2021 in Review: SDHC's End of Year Highlights

In 2021, the South Dakota Humanities Council helped cultural organizations overcome financial struggles related to the Coronavirus pandemic, hosted superstar authors and civil rights leaders and much more.

As you celebrate the beginning of a new year, check out the South Dakota Humanities Council's 2021 end of year highlights.

1. Louise Erdrich and Gloria Steinem Show Us Why Voting Matters

SDHC had the honor of hosting respected cultural figures Gloria Steinem and Louise Erdrich for Voting: Why It Matters, a program created to promote civic and electoral participation, funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

From December 2020 through to April 2021, Voting: Why It Matters featured Steinem, Erdrich, Sally Roesch Wagner, Thomas E. Patterson and Robert V. Burns, as well as national filmmakers and regional experts who spoke about voting access and engagement. The events, held via Zoom and streamed on Facebook Live, were free to all participants.

Discussions covered everything from women's rights movements to lawmakers' attempts to restrict ballot access. SDHC highlighted the strong voices of highly visible advocates like Steinem and Erdrich, who have led efforts to expand voting rights for women and Native Americans, respectively. Such conversations, and the historical context they provide, are vital to state council efforts to promote the humanities.

We invite you to view the recordings below: each section includes a link to the videos and a brief event description.

2. To the Rescue: ARP Funds Bring Relief to Cultural Organizations

The year 2021 was one of recovery, in more ways than one. In recognition that the Coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on the public humanities field across the state, the South Dakota Humanities Council directed $582,000 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), to meet the emergency needs of organizations and to help sustain and strengthen the humanities in South Dakota.

ARP grants supported initiatives such as:

  • Humanities programming
  • General operating costs of humanities-focused organizations
  • Strategic planning and capacity building efforts
  • Technical and consultant needs related to a digital transition
  • Equity assessments and planning related to the Coronavirus

SDHC offers a variety of grant programs to support the humanities in South Dakota. Find out more by visiting our grants page below.

3. A Flurry of Reading and Writing: South Dakotans Share Tales of Winter Weather, Discuss One Book The Children's Blizzard

Inspired by a ferocious storm that struck Dakota Territory in 1888, the 2021 One Book South Dakota, The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin, is a historical novel that hit close to home. South Dakotans not only read and discussed Benjamin's novel, but they also shared their own blizzard stories, which were compiled into a special SDHC publication. (If you'd like a copy of this publication, please email info@sdhumanities.org).

The Children's Blizzard discussions and author visits fulfill the South Dakota Humanities Council's mission to "celebrate literature, promote civil conversation, and tell the stories that define our state." Click below to watch Melanie Benjamin discuss her book with Lauren Tarshis during the Virtual 2021 South Dakota Festival of Books!

4. Books – An Easy Way to Make a Librarian Happy

A crucial component of the humanities, reading, is emphasized in South Dakota Humanities Council programming. In February 2021, SDHC took advantage of surplus inventory and shipped nearly 1,300 books to librarians around the state.

The librarians were pleased.

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity to share books from Young Readers One Book SD!" said Kathleen Bergeson, librarian at Stewart Elementary School in Yankton. "Every third grader received Tatanka, and every third-grade classroom has a set of Bink and Gollie. During this crazy year, books in hand that connect us make all the difference. You are making such a difference! And I appreciate that effort so much!"

"Receiving the free books from SDHC will allow us to provide a great selection of books to our students and community," said Dr. Natalie Anderson, President of Lower Brule Community College. "The books will be used for our monthly book club, library event giveaway items, or to broaden our offerings at the library for patrons. Thank you again, SDHC, for your generosity!"

5. Celebrating a Year of Brainstorming

The goal of the South Dakota Humanities Council's Brainstorming: The Human Connection, launched in July 2020, was to get people talking. In cooperation with longtime SDHC scholar Lawrence Diggs, SDHC launched the weekly discussion program to address civic unrest and racial bias in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis — and to create connection for the quarantined, a forum for conversations and active listeners.

In a year made less lonely by nearly 50 discussions, the 2021 program helped build a bond between people, their lives intertwined by new ideas, unique perspectives, and shared experiences — all foundational to the human condition and essential to friendship and connection. Watch our highlight video below, which includes clips from the past year, to see how the Brainstorming bond was formed.

6. A Day of Generosity — and Donations

Our all-day virtual party on Nov. 30 celebrated the 2021 Day of Giving. We brought in authors like 2022 One Book South Dakota author Nick Estes, poet Bruce Roseland and many others to help us share the stories that keep us connected. The event introduced Estes' book Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance, which will be read and discussed by South Dakotans in 2022 as SDHC's common read.

We also discovered your favorite genre. To add a little excitement to this year's open house, SDHC hosted a Battle of the Genres donation competition. The options were Fiction, Poetry, Non-fiction, or Drama. Poetry was honored as South Dakota's Genre of Choice.

SDHC raised more than $4,000 on the Day of Giving. We'd like to thank everyone who donated and who participated in our various events throughout the day! You can watch a replay of the festivities below.

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