Wisconsin Humanities Launches Community Powered

Folklore Works
A stylized map of Wisconsin shows markers in Spooner, Forest County Potawatomi, Appleton, and Racine.

Community Powered is a Wisconsin Humanities initiative that builds resilience among Wisconsin communities by helping them recognize, communicate, and act upon their strengths, their challenges, and their histories to envision a vibrant future. Residents of participating Wisconsin communities will experience new ways to unearth and tell stories of their communities and will take concrete steps toward making their hometowns even better places to live.  

Community Powered harnesses the stories, histories, and strengths of communities to build community resilience. For its pilot year, Community Powered will work in four communities across the state: Appleton, Racine, Spooner, and Forest County Potawatomi. In each community, Wisconsin Humanities has partnered with a library or cultural organization to serve as the home base for community-engaged projects, and Wisconsin Humanities will soon hire four recent college graduates who have roots in these communities. These recent graduates will return home and pair up with a local mentor from one of these partner organizations. Each graduate and mentor will receive training in humanities and digital media skills through a Community Powered field school, and Wisconsin Humanities will support them as they collaborate with local nonprofit organizations, businesses, and citizens to create a locally meaningful project.

The initiative is named “Community Powered” because the young project coordinators Wisconsin Humanities is hiring and their local mentor will be trained to engage in deep listening within their community to help the community identify a project that fits their needs. Using the humanities toolkit Community Powered will provide them, they will also train community members to execute that vision, giving the power over project development and execution to the community itself. By being community powered, these projects will tell the community’s stories the way the community wants to tell them, meeting the community’s goals even as the community members build connections to one another and inspire hometown pride.

Community Powered is being co-directed by Dr. Chrissy Widmayer, a folklorist based in Madison, and Dr. Arijit Sen, an Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Studies at UW-Milwaukee. Dr. Sen has spent the past ten years teaching students in the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School how to collect and explore stories of places and people and turn what they learned into community action. Wisconsin Humanities is delighted to help Dr. Sen expand his vision statewide.

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