Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

In 2019, for the first time in its 44-year history, California Humanities received $1 million in funding from the State of California. Prior to 2019, California Humanities had relied solely on federal funding, private foundations, and individual giving to support its statewide grants and programs. The organization had never been included within the state budget’s allocations.

The state funding resulted from formal budget requests led by champions, California State Senator Ben Allen and then-California State Assembly Member Rob Bonta (currently the state Attorney General). Its passage marked the culmination of more than three years of California Humanities’ advocacy efforts, including building relationships with legislators in Sacramento and their districts, implementing an informational hearing with the Joint Committee on Arts in 2018, and organizing the first-ever Humanities Advocacy Day in 2019.

At the time of the funding’s passage, Senator Allen emphasized the role of the humanities in fostering “understanding, pluralism, and inclusiveness” and amplifying marginalized voices. “By telling the stories of our state’s diverse residents, sharing their culture, stories, heritage, and unique perspectives, California Humanities fosters understanding, pluralism, and inclusiveness that is vital to a civil society,” said Senator Allen.

Since 2019, portions of this state funding have been allocated to several of California Humanities’ ongoing grants programs, including the Humanities for All Grants and the California Documentary Project Grants. In 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, state funding also supported the CA CARES: Humanities Relief and Recovery Grants, specifically the capacity-building Recovery Grants.

“[The state legislature’s] approval of this funding confirms what we’ve known for a long time—that the people of California value the opportunities to connect with and learn from each other,” said California Humanities President and CEO Julie Fry. “We are proud and humbled by the bipartisan investment made by the state of California in emphasizing the role of the humanities in building stronger and more connected communities throughout California.”

The 2019 allocation of state funding paved the way for even greater success in the summer of 2021, when $2 million in one-time state funding was allocated to California Humanities. Senator Allen called the second round of funding “much needed” and noted that “at this critical moment of global reset and reflection, bolstering civic participation and uplifting diverse voices throughout our state is essential.”

Since receiving the first allotment of state funding, California Humanities has increased core grantmaking by 50 percent, doubled the number of community college and youth journalism partnerships through the Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative, and expanded international partnerships through the Oakland/Saint-Denis Cooperation Program, among other developments.

“Through our work supported by the State of California during the past two years,” said Fry, “we have helped to keep communities connected, foster civic discourse, facilitate a more thorough investigation of the complexities of our time, and put not just the humanities, but humanity at the center of our lives.”

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