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April 2017

MAR 2017

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Humanities Montana
Turns 45

In 1988 a big book became a bestseller and sealed Montana’s reputation as a hotbed of superb writing, not just in the present time but over centuries of native and white settlement.

The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology clocked in at a hefty 1158 pages (cue the inevitable jokes about serving as a doorstop). The book was largely the result of intellectual and financial support from the Montana Committee for the Humanities. The lead editors, William Kittredge and Annick Smith, were aided by a gifted editorial board that included William Bevis, Mary Clearman Blew, William L. Lang, Richard B. Roeder, and James Welch.

Sales took off and reviews were overwhelmingly positive, for readers both inside and outside Montana were astonished by the breadth and depth of writing created in this seemingly remote, even forbidding place. Yet voices of dissent were heard early and often, with particular concern about whether the anthology captured the full range of writing in all parts of the state.

At the remove of almost 30 years, however, Montana’s cultural life seems unimaginable without this compendium of literary reflections.

Our Current State

Elizabeth Barrs, a retired army officer and an instructor of Veterans Studies, is available to lead discussions about the real experiences of the American veteran in combat and in peacetime.

One in 10 Montanans is a veteran, yet how much do we know about the veteran’s experience and military culture? Literature, history, movies, and other media often portray the veteran in stereotype—brave hero, troubled youth, skilled warrior, apathetic killer, or unflappable leader.

Elizabeth can help your classroom or community group discuss military life as well as the historical and current military culture that helps to shape how veterans relate to society. The discussion also explores the experiences of military families and the contemporary challenges and triumphs of veterans as well as what our society is doing to address those challenges.

Check the Montana Conversations page for information about how to book this program and over 100 others!

Elizabeth Barrs

Let Congress Know How Much the Humanities Mean

The humanities change lives by bringing Montanans together to learn and reflect on our past, present, and future. Each year Humanities Montana provides up to 180 Montana Conversations programs all over the state and especially in rural communities; 80 Speakers in the Schools programs to inspire students with history, literature, philosophy, and more; $150,000 in grants so Montanans can design their own exciting programs; and community conversations on current issues so citizens can thoughtfully consider alternative points of view and ways to move forward together.

These incredible opportunities depend on federal funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities. Please click this link to take direct action to let Montana’s Congressional delegation know how much the humanities mean to Montana! Thank you.

Grant Deadlines

Humanities Montana’s next grant application deadline is April 20, 2017 for regular grants (over $1,000). Grant decisions will be made by May 22.

Opportunity Grant applications are accepted at any time but should be submitted at least four weeks before the project begins.

Event Calendar

Visit our online calendar to find out about upcoming Humanities Montana-sponsored events.


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Humanities Montana strives to enrich the lives of all Montanans by fostering inquiry and stimulating civil and informed conversations about the human experience.

Much more information on Humanities Montana and its many programs and services is available on our website.

Write us at:

Humanities Montana
311 Brantly
Missoula, MT, 59812-7848

or contact us via email, or call us at 406-243-6022.

Montana Center for the Book Launches New Programs

The Montana Center for the Book is introducing new literary programs and opportunities, including up to five annual literary prizes and a new statewide literary events calendar.

The new Montana Center for the Book site features a calendar of literary events taking place across the state. Montana libraries and literary programmers are encouraged to list their events on the page with an easy-to-use online form. The website also features Montana Reads/Montana Writes, a catalog of authors and literature scholars who can be booked for readings, discussions, workshops, and lessons by schools, libraries, and other community groups.

The Montana Center for the Book Prize is a new annual cash award to recognize and support organizations that celebrate literature and give people increased access to books and writers. The MCB Prize will include a $1,000 cash award presented to each of up to five organizations that offer creative and wide-reaching literary programming. MCB Prize recipients will be featured on the Montana Center for the Book web page and all recipient organization events will be shared on the MCB calendar of events. In awarding the MCB Prize, the Montana Center for the Book will prioritize geographic diversity with a special emphasis on organizations that reach rural populations. The online application form will be available in May.

Humanities Montana has been the sponsor of the Montana Center for the Book since 1999 and has supported book festivals, the national youth letter-writing competition Letters About Literature, and interactive literary maps, in addition to providing resources for teachers including literature study guides.

NEH Offers Grant Workshop at MSU Bozeman April 6-7

Montana State University Bozeman will host a National Endowment for the Humanities grant workshop on Friday, April 7 from 8:30 to 11:30 in the Strand Union in Ballroom B. Workshop activities include an overview of NEH grant programs and special initiatives, followed by a mock panel review session offering strategies for developing strong applications for the NEH. Private one-on-one consultations will be offered on Thursday, April 6, 3-6 pm and Friday, April 7, 2-5 pm.

This free workshop will be led by NEH Senior Program Officer, Mary Macklem, PhD. Registration is required. Go here to register.

Thomas McGuane Receives Major Literary Prize

Thomas McGuane, Montana author of bestselling fiction and nonfiction, will receive the Los Angeles Times Robert Kirsch Award in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished writing.

McGuane’s lyrical, sardonic novels, stories, and essays capture Montana in all its contemporary variety, often contrasting the state’s astonishing physical beauty with the foibles of the human beings who claim the place as home. McGuane will receive the award Friday, April 21 at the University of Southern California. For more information, visit this site. Congratulations to a great Montana writer!

Share Reflections on The Last Best Place

The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology is one of Humanities Montana’s enduring contributions to Montana’s cultural life (see sidebar). Published in 1988, this hefty volume came to life largely through the grant and intellectual support of this organization.

As the anthology approaches its 30th birthday, we wonder how it’s holding up. We would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this crucial text. Does the anthology still represent Montana’s literary heritage? Is it time for a new anthology, and if so, how would it differ from The Last Best Place? How do you respond to the famous and influential metaphor, "last best place"?

Please send your comments to Ken Egan by April 24—we’ll include some of your reflections in the next newsletter. And look for discussions of the anthology at book festivals in Missoula and Billings this fall.

Hometown Humanities Livingston Features Writing and Book Discussions


The Livingston-Park County Library is launching its Writer’s Block series. Upcoming programs include:

"Wordsongs: Bringing Poetry to Life" with Dave Caserio, April 6.

"Finding and Keeping Your Personal Stories" with Susie Risho, April 13.

A discussion on writing with Ken Egan, April 27.

All Writer’s Block events will take place at the library, 228 W Callender Street. Thanks to Tim King for his tireless efforts to provide humanities programming to Livingston!


Elk River Book’s Spring Arts and Lecture Series will begin with a public lecture by J.D. Lanham on April 6 at 7 pm. Lanham is a biologist, conservationist, and author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature.

The second lecture in the series will take place on April 20 at 7 pm and will be led by Greg Klyma, American Sundays host and old-school troubadour. All Elk River Spring Arts and Lecture Series public events will take place at Elk River Books, 120 N. Main Street.

Thanks to Marc Beaudin and Andrea Peacock for envisioning and creating this excellent series!

Visit our Hometown Humanities site for more information and a calendar of events and contact Sarah with questions or requests.

April is National Poetry Month—Read a Good Poem Today

Since this month is dedicated to celebrating poetry, Humanities Montana encourages you to spend time with poetry—in fact, make it a daily habit!

To help you find poems set in Montana, we especially encourage you to visit two recent books, These Living Songs: Reading Montana Poetry, which gathers lively, accessible commentaries on a wide range of poets, and Poems Across the Big Sky II: An Anthology of Montana Poets, a collection of contemporary Montana verse.

The Humanities Make All the Difference: Hal and Sheila Stearns

This year’s Governor’s Humanities Awards recipients shared thoughts on how the humanities changed their lives. Hal and Sheila Stearns reflect:

For two Montana kids who grew up in rural Montana, one in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains and the other on the edge of the Makoshika Badlands, we have been privileged by our proximity to special places. The humanities have helped us make sense of where we lived, who we knew and loved, and why we worked and played with enthusiasm. It has all been of a piece. The humanities as vocation and avocation have made us who we are.

You can read Hal and Sheila’s moving essay here.

Governor Bullock Reappoints Irion, McSpadden, Pruitt, and Smoker Broaddus to HM Board

Governor Steve Bullock has reappointed David Irion (Billings), Carmen McSpadden (Bozeman), Aaron Pruitt (Bozeman), and Mandy Smoker Broaddus (Helena) to four-year terms on the Humanities Montana Board. They bring expertise in fundraising, leadership, film, and Indian Education for All.

Thanks to Governor Bullock for his support—and thanks to Dave, Carmen, Aaron, and Mandy for their commitment to humanities for all Montanans!

Grants Awarded:
March 2017

Book Discussion Group, Wedsworth Memorial Library, Cascade, $1,000. Support for eight book discussions led by Dr. Penny Hughes-Briant exploring two themes—the lives of women and how people deal with disaster.

Grant-Writing Workshops, Montana History Foundation. Helena, $1,000. Support for a minimum of six grant-writing workshops across Montana in 2017.These workshops build capacity in Montana's rural arts and cultural nonprofits and allow them to compete effectively for grant dollars.

Wildlife, Montana State University Billings, $500. Support for a two-day event offering a series of Montana speakers on the topic of wildlife—from a history of bear management in Yellowstone National Park to an examination of snakes in ancient mythology, June 23-24.

Apsaalooke Pryor Mountain Video Project, Our Montana Inc., Billings, $1,000. Funding for a 15-20- minute video about the significance of the Pryor Mountains to the Apsaalooke people, produced by Crow videographers and editors and including interviews with Crow elders.

Healing Through Language, Sacred Roots Language Society, Missoula, $1,000. Support for a lecture by Bruce Wolf Child, an elder from the Kainai reserve in Alberta, a residential school survivor, and a language activist who will share his knowledge of the Blackfoot language and its relation to healing from historical trauma, April 22.

Thanks to Our Generous Supporters — March 2017


Dave Caserio
M. Earl Craig
Devin Egan
Marie Habener
David and Janis Hansen
Carla Homstad
Rebecca Kohl and Kirby Lambert
Richard Marshall
Ambrin Masood
Jennie Pak
Wilbur Rehman
Cheryl and Tobin Shearer*
Hal Stearns**
Dorothea Susag
Carol Swager
Sally Thompson
Ron and Darlene Tussing


Boulder Community Library
Carbon County Historical Society
Flathead Valley Genealogical Society
Gallatin Canyon Women’s Club
Gallatin Historical Society
Georgetown Homeowners Association
Greater Gardiner Community Council
Montana Conservation Corps
Montana Racial Equity Project
Montana State University School of Art
Toole County Friends of the Library

*Current Board and Staff Members
**Former Board and Staff Members