A new local funding agency for humanities projects was created yesterday with a yearly budget of $324,000 from is parent agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"This program is not for humanities scholars and not for students," said Carole Watson, a program officer for the State Programs Division of the NEH. "It's for the people."
The new agency, called the D.C. Community Humanities Council, is composed of 20 members, most of them recruited by NEH. Besides scholars, the group includes a number of private citizens, two of them appointed by Mayor Marion Barry. The Council members jointly review the grant applications. There are no panels of reviewers like those of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which -- despite its name -- funds only arts projects. And also unlike the Arts and Humanities commission, the Humanities Council is independent of the city government.
The Humanities Council is among the last in a series of local -- mainly state -- councils begun gradually on an experimental basis over the last nine years by the NEH.
A $236,000 portion of the Council's funding for the next 12 months goes to grants, and the remainder to operating expenses and staff.
The Humanities Council wants humanities projects directed to the adult, out-of-school population of the District, said Beatrice Hackett, the Council's executive director. "They can be anything ranging from lectures to radio shows to documentaries," said Hackett. "They can be lectures on history, discussions on issues of public concern. But they might be street museums, walking tours, a history photo exhibit. We're interested in encouraging a variety of approaches."
All projects must centrally involve a trained person in the humanities, according to Roderick French, a co-chair of the Council.
"In a way, it's kind of a test to see if humanists have valuable concepts," said French director of the Division of Experimental Programs at George Washington University and a philosophy professor there.
Other programs sponsored by local humanities councils across the country have included a project in which western Kansas farmers explored land-use policies with historians and another involving a group of black Rhode Island citizens who traced the history of their ancestors' roles in the American Revolution.
The Council will hold meetings on how to apply for a grant at the Martin Luther King Public Library Dec. 18 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Dec. 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. The first funding cycle deadline is Feb. 1, 1980.
The Humanities Council and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities will hold a joint public forum for art groups Dec. 20 in the City Council Chambers at 4 p.m. to explain what the new Council is and how art groups' prospective projects might qualify for humanities funding.