NEH gives $40 million in grants; $3.2 million to California
The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $40 million in grants, including $3.2 million for scholars, museums and documentary filmmakers in California.
Like its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEH saw its current-year budget slashed 7.5% in April, down to $155 million, and its future prospects are iffy given the deficit-cutting mood in Washington. For now, there’s still money to go around.
L.A.’s Grammy Museum will get $550,000 to help produce “Rockin’ the Kremlin,” a film by director Jim Brown about the role American rock music played in weakening the Soviet empire. A UPI.com report last year on plans for the film said it includes an account of a 1977 Soviet tour by the Southern California-based Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that was said to play a part in capturing young Slavic imaginations, presumably helping to awaken them to the drawbacks of totalitarian rule. Brown’s past films include documentaries about Woody Guthrie, the Weavers, Peter Paul and Mary and a PBS series, “American Roots Music.”
Another $550,000 goes to the L.A.- and Berkeley-based documentary producer the Katahdin Foundation for “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” A description on the Katahdin website says the biography of the photographer (pictured above), who is famed for documenting the Great Depression and the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, is being directed by Lange’s granddaughter, Dyanna Taylor. Katahdin won a second grant, $75,000, for “Geographies of Kinship: The Korean Adoption Story.”
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will receive $300,000 for its 2012 exhibition “Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico,” scheduled to open April 1 at the Resnick Pavilion. The grant will help fund the exhibition catalog, preparations for a subsequent tour, and public programs connected with the show.
UCLA landed three grants totaling $435,000, including $137,000 for a five-week seminar for college teachers on “the life, work and cultural milieu of Oscar Wilde” and $248,000 for a digital project that will investigate how recent mapping technologies such as GIS can be deployed in humanities research and teaching.
UC Santa Barbara will receive $245,000 for its ongoing project to create a 30-volume edition of “The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau.” The grant will cover work on three volumes of the philosopher’s letters.
Nationwide, film projects commanded the largest individual grants, including $750,000 to Washington, D.C.’s, public television station, WETA, for a 14-hour series, “The Roosevelts,” that will focus on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor, and $700,000 to WGBH in Boston for “Freedom Summer,” a two-hour documentary on the historic 1964 drive to register black voters in Mississippi.
Grants of $600,000 will help fund “Henry Ford and the American Dream,” “The Royal Cup,” about ancient Maya culture and the ethics of collecting looted antiquities, and a documentary by the New York-based Endangered Language Alliance about tongues on the verge of extinction. There’s also $60,000 for “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin,” a documentary on the science-fiction author’s life and ideas.
The NEH is investing more than $3 million in scholarly work on major figures including Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Beckett, George Santayana, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Adams, James Monroe, James Madison, Jefferson Davis, Herman Melville, Samuel Johnson and John Donne.
Kent State University will get $300,000 to help fund “Making Meaning of May 4th: The Kent State Shootings in American History,” a long-term exhibition that aims to place the National Guard’s 1970 campus killing (pictured) of four antiwar protesters “within the context of…protest, politics and youth culture.”
Among the grants most likely to give Rush Limbaugh and Tea Party members some red meat is $137,000 to Eastern Illinois University, to help support a four-week seminar in London that aims to bolster teachers’ ability to instruct their students in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.” Other seminars receiving six-figure grants and aimed at helping secondary and college-level humanities instructors improve their teaching chops include the UCLA program on Oscar Wilde and others on Leonardo da Vinci, Georgia O’Keeffe, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jane Austen and ancient Roman comedy.
Here’s a grant that some might find Quixotic, and others essential: $400,000 to the University of Massachusetts, Boston, for a two-day public forum, to be accessible on the Internet and television, “about the meaning of civility and its role in the functioning of American democracy.”
The NEH also will pump $3.8 million into yesterday’s news: the ongoing National Digital Newspaper Program, in which state historical societies and universities make digital copies of old microfilms of newspapers dating from 1836 to 1922 so they can be read and searched online. The NEH's total investment since 2005 is about $15 million, which has yielded some 4 million pages of erstwhile newsprint from 22 states and the District of Columbia; three new states are joining, and this year's 13 recipients are expected to generate an additional 100,000 pages each.
UC Riverside oversees the program’s California component; its California Digital Newspaper Collection received grants in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and totals more than 400,000 pages. It wasn’t among this year’s NEH recipients.
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: Dorothea Lange, from the film documentary "Photos to Send" (top); famous photo of 1970 Kent State killings. Credit: photographer unknown/LACMA Film Department (Lange); John Filo / Associated Press (Kent State).