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Meet Our New Program Assistant: Lucy Asako Boltz

NAME: Lucy Asako Boltz

TITLE: Program Assistant

PREVIOUSLY: Americorps VISTA at Riverzedge Arts, Woonsocket, RI

CURRENTLY READING: Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli and The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

What was it about California Humanities that first appealed to you?

I was interested in the work of supporting people who are organizing events that engage the public in learning, conversation and exploration. There were so many projects that were listed as being recently funded that I wanted to learn more about. I was excited for the zine-making one.

Has your experience as a grant recipient helped you with your work now that you’re part of an organization that provides grant money? How so?

I think that the experience of receiving and carrying out a mini-grant project (granted by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities) orients my thinking about grantmaking in a way that is useful in serving and working with grantees and the public (include members of the public who do not know much about grantmaking).

I think that being in this position after going through the process of carrying out my own project and directing a project someone else had designed generates respect for the role of Project Directors or grant applicant. There is so much expected from grant recipients in terms of skill set and follow-through. They often provide the vision for the project, coordinate work, advertise and promote, collect feedback or conduct evaluation, and report back to funders, like California Humanities. From working at a few small non-profits, I also can relate to being in the position of working at a budget-crunched non-profit endeavoring to deliver quality programming.

I also remember a time not too long ago when I did not understand the role of state humanities councils or understand how people applied for grants to fund their projects. These processes were not spelled out to me even in college as I was participating in outside projects funded by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. I am excited to be working to make this process clear to new grantseekers through in-person workshops (like the one coming up in Hanford, CA).

At California Humanities we believe that the humanities are relevant and provide meaningful ways to connect us to each other. How do you see this coming across your everyday life?

I see the humanities, specifically programs or events that aimed at bringing people in public space together in an intentional way (for example to hear people discuss a topic, to ask a question during a Q&A, to be immersed in some experience and reflect on it together) as a place or space to wake up emotionally and intellectually. I like entering a space where people are allowed to interact with each other, to listen to each other and ask questions, to hear people who have studied a topic critically, to see ourselves as having experiences worthy of investigating and sharing.

In thinking about how humanities thinking or humanities-based experiences enter my everyday life, I remember recently stopping at a historical placard installed on a wide street pole near the California Humanities office outside of Union Station in LA. It was about the trunk murderess of the 1920s who was caught at Union Station or en route. I mentioned it to my dad, who knew of the story even though it had happened decades before he was born. He had even discussed it with his mom. She had heard about it growing up as a tabloid story from her generation that I guess entered the public consciousness. I appreciate hearing about those points of transmission– of what stays in the public imagination and is reworked into cultural iconography and what falls into somewhat obscurity. I also appreciate how learning the beginning of a history of a place adds a new experience or perspective to that place, and the way that I see it.

In an alternate universe, what career path has Lucy Asako Boltz chosen?

Pen portraitist.

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

I’m left-handed. I usually don’t mention this, unless someone else mentions that they are also left-handed. I try to pay attention to where I sit at a dinner table so that I don’t disturb my often right-handed neighbor while eating. But sometimes I don’t have the foresight and then try to eat with my elbow decidedly out of the way.

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