Who are we? Since 1974, the Michigan Humanities Council (MHC) has been trying to answer this question. With a variety of culturally enriching programs, the MHC strives to work with and build Michigan’s communities. “We’re interested in all aspects of cultural things – history, politics and community identity – all the things that people use to identify themselves and how they think about each other,” said Erik Nordberg, executive director of the MHC. The Council is an independent, nonprofit organization that focuses on being a statewide cultural agency. The MHC offers a variety of cultural programs including literacy initiatives, poetry competitions and scholarly lectures. “We’re not science or technology, we’re not the creative or performing arts. We’re (the) other things – literature, theater and history are our strong points,” Nordberg said, defining the humanities. In Michigan communities, the MHC seeks opportunities to lead the conversation on change and influence statewide change. Nordberg described the idea of community as any group of people with shared values and shared aspirations. “A lot of the community identity has a direct impact on (the way) we think about further developing places that attract and retain a community,” he said. With literature, theater and history, the MHC works closely with other nonprofit organizations throughout the state to address the Grand Challenges in social services, like literacy, education, poverty, hunger and employment. “We’re very interested in finding areas where we can have more impact and address some of those larger challenges,” said Nordberg. In 2012, the MHC awarded more than $450,000 in grants to more than 200 organizations helping build culture in their communities through exhibits, festivals and history projects. Although there is constant attention placed upon areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Nordberg said that the humanities are equally as important. “The humanities provide a framework that encourages creativity,” he said. “It’s not just about creating a new invention. It’s about trying to affect change and (deciding) how we want human life to be.” The MHC promotes proactive and forward-thinking to create a brighter future for all Michigan residents. The MHC is located at 119 Pere Marquette Drive in Suite 3B in Lansing. They can be contacted via telephone at (517) 372-7770 or online at www.michiganhumanities.org.
Whitney Bunn is a junior at Michigan State University studying journalism and acting. An eternal optimist, Whitney loves yoga, dogs and everything French.