Golden Anniversary Letter, June

Kim Anderson
Director of programs and grants

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As Humanities Montana celebrates our 50th anniversary, we are honored to hear from previous board members and friends from across the state. This month, Kim Anderson, director of programs and grants, reflects on her 23 years with Humanities Montana. Kim retires on June 30, 2022, after a long career of serving the humanities throughout the state. Kim is most known for starting the Montana Festival of the Book and for the support and counsel she has provided Humanities Montana’s grant recipients over the years.

No one is happier to celebrate Humanities Montana’s 50th birthday than I am. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been on the staff of Humanities Montana for nearly half those years; they’ve passed so quickly and been filled with so many life-changing moments.

I was hired, initially, to create the Montana Festival of the Book. I didn’t really know what a book festival was, but I had worked in publishing, I knew authors (I was about to marry one), and I loved to read. It sounded like a wonderful adventure, and I will always be grateful to Mark Sherouse, the director of the Montana Committee for the Humanities, for taking a risk on me. For 15 years, I witnessed the graciousness and generosity and talent of writers and readers. I treasure the night that Rick Bass and the alt-folk band Stella Rondo set up a living room on the stage of the Wilma Theatre and enthralled a packed house, and how at the end of the evening a few hard-core fans and Rick and the band gathered in front of the Wilma—at midnight with a full moon—and Rick read the children’s classic, Goodnight Moon. I shake my head in amazement that, several years later, we thought we could put together an orchestra with vocal soloists to perform the oratorio of The Heartsong of Charging Elk, based on the novel by James Welch and composed by Wayne Horowitz, who spoke with Lois Welch before the performance. In fact, we could—and it was amazing. The list of authors who leapt at the chance to celebrate literature with us, and the enthusiasm and loyalty of the audiences, moved me every year.

Once I began working as program officer, and then director of programs and grants, every day was an education; every day brought new, exciting possibilities and people. Helping Montanans book humanities programs and write grants put me in touch with hundreds and hundreds of community leaders, teachers, organizers, and volunteers across the state. These people, and the conversation leaders, the scholars and facilitators who love nothing more than to travel hundreds of miles to meet with small groups of people or classrooms to discuss issues that really matter, whether it’s media literacy, contemporary issues, or the many cultural threads that enrich Montana—these are the people who give me hope for the future.

Time and time again, communities have shown up to have the conversations that were important to them—in Dillon, we talked about water rights; in Livingston and Eureka, we talked about the inequities, opportunities, and challenges involved in being a tourist destination; in Miles City, we shared fears about losing an agricultural identity; in Sidney, we discussed the boom-and-bust cycle. Everywhere I’ve traveled for Humanities Montana, I’ve been so moved by the thoughtfulness and commitment of people who want to make their special place better. That’s always been a huge part of what sustains me in this work.

And of course the people I’ve spent the most time with, the staff and board members of this organization: I’ve never known a harder working group of people. I’ve learned so much from my colleagues and from the incredible group of volunteers who have led this organization by serving on our board—scholars, ranchers, librarians, business owners, nonprofit leaders, and university presidents—busy people who believe enough in the power of the humanities to donate their time and energy and ideas.

I’m pretty sure I have the best job in Montana. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve my state. Every day for 23 years, I’ve been humbled by the great hearts and minds that keep our communities vital and caring and thriving. Every day, I’ve been challenged. Every day has been a blast.

Thank you, Humanities Montana!

Kim Anderson
Director of programs and grants