April 15–29, 2024
2024 Being Human Festival USA
The inaugural USA edition of the Being Human Festival involves events in eight locations across the country, each of which will be held between April 15 and April 29, 2024.
These community-focused events, organized and presented by local artists, scholars, and educators, highlight the incredible breadth of the humanities and demonstrate the innumerable ways that they add depth and meaning to our lives, help us understand ourselves and one another, and provide context for the complex world around us.
The creation of the American edition of the festival is the latest international expansion of the Being Human effort, which began in the United Kingdom in 2014. Previous “Being Human” festival events have taken place in France, Italy, Romania, and Singapore. In 2017, a sister festival was established in Melbourne, Australia and Princeton University served as a hub for events in the US in 2018 and 2019.
2024 “Being Human” National Humanities Festival Events
Guns, Art-Making, and Truth: Public Dialogues on Gun Violence (inspired by Fourth Responders)
Tempe, AZ | Organizer: Arizona State University
Arizonans are in need of dialogue that brings them together to seek connection and understanding in the face of gun violence and debates surrounding gun laws and regulations. For this event, undergraduate students will collaborate with each other and a faculty teaching team as well as local citizen groups and community experts focused on gun-related issues. They will design and curate a series of short presentation/performance pieces such as TED-style talks, documentary films, musical and movement-based performances, and/or mixed-media projects. Enacting the principles of fourth response, the exhibits of the event will interweave humanities and arts-based research to incorporate lived experiences, critical engagement with controversial perspectives on guns and rights, and praxis toward a sustainable future free from rampant gun-related violence.
Indigenous Arts Festival
Red Hook, NY | Organizer: Bard College
This event will take place at the historic Montgomery Place site and will encourage an active exploration of regional and indigenous identity through history, art, education, agriculture, foodways, and placemaking. Indigenous artists from the area will lead hands-on workshops related to crafts and other traditions, while creating pop-up makerspaces where members of the public can watch and discuss their artistic practices.
Living Histories, Living Plants: Film, Food, and Fellowship on the Carolina Garden Trail
Charlotte, NC | Organizer: University of North Carolina at Charlotte
This event will bring together a tour of the Carolina Garden Trail stressing the legacy of African-descended crops and plants in North Carolina, a screening of the film “Living Histories of Sugar,” produced by Caribbean performance artists, a cooking lesson allowing attendees to make a sweet potato hand pie, and a lesson on plant propagation, taking a home a sweet potato or other seasonally appropriate seedling to plant and nurture. The event is designed to increase knowledge of North Carolina’s history through plants and foodways, encourage North Carolina citizens to feel a greater connection and involvement with the state’s civic identity through its crops and plants, offer a greater understanding of horticulture, and reach new audiences for humanities-based content through alternative learning environments.
The Archive of Significant Objects
Minneapolis, MN | Organizer: Felicia Cooper
This event will be based around the collection and curation of meaningful objects from members of the Minneapolis public, especially families. The objects will be labeled and displayed for visitors for three days on the Midtown Greenway. With permission from the object’s owners, they will then be incorporated into an original puppet show and object performance set to live music. This is an ironic take on what a museum typically is: instead of a stalwart pedestal, a brief and interactive ephemeral experience. This event will encourage reflection on the mass amount of consumerism tied into human life and capitalism in the United States through the playful and non-judgmental medium of puppetry. Audiences will encounter new modes of object-oriented histories while addressing our relationship to “things” in our built environment.
The Artistic Expression of Original Research
Riverside, CA | Organizer: University of California, Riverside
This event will present UCR STEM scholars who address their original and high-impact scientific research through the lens of the arts, crafting research and/or delivering results in creative and expressive formats. The event we propose will include both “show and tell” and “make and do” presentations and activities directed towards an intergenerational audience, including K–12 students as well as lifelong learners. By bringing STEM research into new formats and contexts, this event will demonstrate that the humanities can encourage critical thinking on a wide range of interdisciplinary topics by bringing their methods to all forms of intellectual inquiry.
The Power of Buttons: A Craft Workshop and Public History
St. Louis, MO | Organizer: Washington University in St. Louis
“The Power of Buttons” will involve two different pop-up workshops that will engage the St. Louis community with a small but powerful public text: the pin-back button. By focusing participant attention on the long history of the pin-back button, we intend to prompt more thinking about the texts so crucial to social movement and organization that often get overlooked by scholars in the academy. Though they’re common personal possessions and highly circulated tokens of political or social affiliation, it is difficult to categorize the pin-back button as strictly text or object; they both document and disseminate personal beliefs and preferences. Developed in partnership with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, this pop-up workshop will help participants consider the significance of buttons as a public text and persuasive tool throughout histories, social movements, civic engagement, humanistic inquiry, and community building. They will also design, create, and take home their own buttons.
Upstate NY Zine Fest
Utica, NY | Organizer: Hamilton College
The first ever week-long zine fest for upstate NY will bring together the greater Utica community in Upstate New York to create zines through three workshops led by zine practitioners and cartoon artists. Taking their name from “fanzine,” an abbreviated name for a fan magazine that was popular in the 1930s, a zine is a small, self-made/published, cheap, and easy to read magazine meant to convey personal and political views of the day. In this digital age, zines continue to be the medium par excellence for self-expression and the mode for self-publishing across socio-economic backgrounds, identities, and communities. This public humanities zine fest will be an opportunity to bring together K–12 students and teachers, families, college students and faculty, the NY6 Humanities Corridor “Small Press Reading Series” group, local migrant communities, and the greater local public community to learn side-by-side about zines and how to make them.
Writing the Route: Route 66 Bus Tour and Writing Workshop
Oklahoma City, OK | Organizer: University of Oklahoma
As the nation approaches the centennial of the founding of Route 66, a Route 66 Bus Tour and Writing Workshop will be held in Oklahoma, which will engage community members in the creative process of writing from a landscape-based perspective and in dialogue with Route 66 voices they may not have encountered before. As participants journey with us along Route 66, they will also journey to a writing product they will develop by acquiring place-based literacies—that is, by learning to read place and write about their experience. How do we celebrate the ’50s classic cars and photo-stop landmarks like the Blue Whale of Catoosa and the Round Barn of Arcadia? And how do we balance that celebration with an understanding of what the route meant to a diverse swath of mid-century Americans, including women and African Americans?
About the National Humanities Center
The National Humanities Center (NHC) is unique: a free standing national resource devoted to advancing significant humanistic study and reflection and to making those insights available both inside and outside the academic world. Founded in the 1970s, the NHC is a private, nonprofit and the only major independent institute for advanced study in the world dedicated to supporting excellence in humanities research and teaching.
Since its inception, over 1,500 Fellows have worked at the NHC, leading to nearly 1,800 books, and untold thousands of other scholarly works. Many of these books have been recognized with prestigious awards and helped shape thinking across academic disciplines. The Center also offers an extensive array of professional development and high quality educational resources for teachers that benefit millions of students in K–12 and college classrooms across the country. In addition, the National Humanities Center maintains a host of public engagement and advocacy efforts to highlight the significance of the humanities as the foundation of a democratic culture, a fulfilling life, and an informed citizenry.
The National Humanities Center is able to accomplish its work though the generosity and dedication of individual donors, foundations, and corporations as well as a distinguished group of institutional sponsors, all of whom share our commitment to excellence in the humanities. Will you help us continue the Center’s critical work? Please consider making a gift today.
2024 Festival Sponsors
Organizers for each of this year’s events have been awarded grants from the National Humanities Center to offset a portion of event costs. The grants were made possible through the generosity of our sponsors:
William C. Jordan
In the News
National Humanities Center Announces Sites for Inaugural “Being Human” Festival
“‘Being Human’ Fest to Include Oklahoma Event,” The Journal Record, November 20, 2023