Federal legislation to cut arts and humanities funding was recently blocked by a bipartisan effort. Utah Humanities board members say constituent involvement helped the effort succeed and is necessary for the humanities to receive needed funding.
The executive director of Utah Humanities, Jody Gram, said the off-season for state and federal lawmakers is one of the best times for constituents to ask their legislators to support the humanities.
“I would hate to think that anybody would get lost during a legislative session, but with the sheer number of people that are contacting legislators, I think that that could happen,” Graham said.
She said the humanities are all about stories, which is why constituents should invite legislators to community events.
“It all is very personal,” Graham said. “It’s about learning how to get to know and understand people who are different from you who may be your neighbors. It’s important for our elected officials to hear those stories and not only during the legislative session when they’re just bombarded with request after request and person after person making pitch after pitch for their own funding.”
Randy Williams is a folklore curator and oral history specialist at Utah State University and a Utah Humanities board member. She remembers years ago a state representative who was actively involved in a program highlighting the stories of Latino community members.
“He came to one of our events, he met with the participants. And I think that probably helped inform his view of some of his constituents,” Williams said.
Graham said in her experiences, she has found lawmakers want to be involved with these types of events.
“They really do want to make an effort to understand,” Graham said. “And so if these things are going on in the community, or if you are coming to a Utah Humanities event in your community, invite them.