Letter from the Director
My first official in-person engagement as Humanities Montana executive director (I started in this position mid-pandemic) was this past May, speaking at a gathering of the local Kiwanis club. It was inspiring to meet with so many individuals committed to civic engagement and community involvement. Soon after, I visited Helena to meet with Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras and her wonderful assistant Hannah, and then to research women’s community cookbooks (my hobby) at the Montana Historical Society library—where I happened to run into former Humanities Montana board member Sidney Armstrong.
Last week, the Humanities Montana development director, Sara Stout, and I drove to Billings to meet with board members David Dietrich and Laura Mitchell Ross, and we were delighted to receive a tour of the newly remodeled and stunning Alberta Bair Theater from the executive director of the ABT, Jan Dietrich, and board member Corby Skinner. And of course, we made sure to stop across the street at This House of Books before we left downtown Billings. I picked up the new biography of Montana author Thomas Savage by O. Alan Weltzien, retired University of Montana Western professor of English and another former Humanities Montana board member.
Sara and I also had the opportunity to meet with Jessica Flint of Billings, a new governor’s appointee to the board, and Dr. Esther Beth Sullivan, who will join our board in January 2022. I’m a proud alumna of Rocky Mountain College in Billings, and we visited the beautiful campus to receive an update from President Bob Wilmouth, who is keeping the liberal arts alive and well in Montana. I offered to sing the RMC alma mater, but Sara and Bob declined.
These excursions are just the tip of the iceberg. Humanities Montana speakers are traveling the state to museums, libraries, community centers, and state parks in communities such as Kalispell, Glendive, and Red Lodge. Humanities Montana staff members Kim Anderson and Samantha Dwyer are meeting with cultural and community leaders in our Hometown Humanities site, Lewistown, where we will soon host two years of free humanities programming. Our Democracy Project locations at the libraries in Missoula, Billings, and Whitehall are also up and running. After a year and a half of remote work and virtual programming, it is great to be back in Montana communities.
The pandemic taught us at Humanities Montana that, while our greatest strength remains with the in-person humanities conversations and programming we are known for, virtual events allow us to reach many more Montanans in our geographically vast and remote state. For this reason, our biennial Governor’s Humanities Awards ceremony will be held as a live virtual event on Thursday, September 30, 6 pm–7 pm. I personally invite you to join us at the virtual GHAs to celebrate five Montanans who have made ongoing and significant achievements to the public humanities. The names of the five distinguished recipients will be announced on our Humanities Montana social media accounts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can RSVP here.
I’ve so enjoyed being out and about in Montana, and I look forward to seeing you in your community soon!
Randi Lynn Tanglen, Ph.D.