Oregon Humanities was established in 1971, known then as the Oregon Council for the Humanities which is one out of the five statewide partners of the Oregon Cultural Trust. Oregon Humanities is an independent nonprofit affiliate with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Between 2015-12017, Oregon Humanities developed a 2018-2019 strategic plan that “invites diverse perspectives, explores challenging questions, and strives for just communities.”
“The Conversation Project brings Oregonians together to talk—across differences, beliefs, and backgrounds—about important issues and ideas.” Rather than simply listening to a presenter, participants in Conversation Projects have the opportunity to engage with and talk to each other. Oregon Humanities’ goal with this project is “to connect people to ideas and to each other, not to push an agenda or arrive at a consensus.”
Oregon Humanities partners with community organizations, small and large nonprofits, universities, community colleges, government agencies, corporations, and others throughout Oregon to host Conversation Project programs. Organizations can apply to host a program that falls into one of the categories specified in the Conversation Project catalog. They then receive resources to facilitate programs, including communication materials, program descriptions, evaluations, and other resources that support each stage of the program. The facilitator then leads a ninety-minute conversation that promotes conversation on issues and ideas that are important to the community.
The annual Fishtrap Big Read celebrates one great work of literature by providing events, discussions, and books to Wallowa County schools, libraries, and community members. 2020’s chosen book is “When the Emperor was Divine” by Julie Otsuka, and tells the story of a family’s experience in the internment camps of World War II. Otsuka has participated as a facilitator for the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project, and doing so helped inform the way that Otsuka communicates issues of race and history in the United States.
On February 14, Oregon Humanities and other state organizations gathered to engage in “career-oriented conversation” in networking students with possible career options, focusing on the range of industries and ethnic backgrounds and interest for the students
The Cultural Trust is hosting “Conversations with Funders and Partners” from February 19 through March 12. These informal information sessions have the goal of enabling grant seekers to learn about funding programs available and give them the opportunity to discuss their projects and programming. The Cultural Trust is being joined by four of its statewide partners, including OH
The Arts Council of Lake Oswego Art Gallery in May will be exhibiting zines of all formats, from the country and internationally, covering multiple subjects and topics. Oregon Humanities is partnered in this event by involving them in a discussion on how zine stories can be and are integrated into our everyday lives. The exhibition will kick off with an Oregon Humanities project program “Why DIY? Self-Sufficiency and American Life”, covering questions such as why we strive to be makers and doers surrounded by conveniences in our lives, “how maker spaces and skill courses foster greater engagement and involvement” and what could be left behind in a self sufficient society
More than $5 million will be granted towards funding Oregon’s Cultural Trust 2020 “Conversations with Funders and Partners”. It is an “eight stop series of informal information sessions will enable grant seekers to learn about funding programs available and give them the opportunity to discuss their projects and programming”. Those that are participating to represent include Oregon Humanities.
The Conversation Project created multiple sets of guidelines for effective facilitation of dialogue and for respectful dissolution of tensions or other difficult situations that these types of conversations might create. First, they recommend keeping in mind what’s going on in the community that relates to the topic of conversation and being vocal about it to the conversation facilitator. Careful outreach and marketing materials to promote the event can also have an effect, as it is the first way in which the community perceives the event. Finally, a space for dialogue can only be created if the facilitator plans for what they will do if a challenging situation occurs. Since the work of conversation is personal and real, it can be expected to encounter a range of emotions and opinions about a topic of which people are passionate about. Conversations about topics such as these are vital, “even if it means we have to bend and stretch, even if it means we feel vulnerable or frustrated or afraid.”