Read the full remarks made by Humanities DC Executive Director Joy Ford Austin before Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser’s Transition Team below, and the accompanying “Local Dollars for Local Humanities” Position Paper here.


Remarks before the Arts & the Creative Economy Co-Chairs and Transition Committee of Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser


Good afternoon. I am Joy Ford Austin, Executive Director of Humanities DC formerly Humanities Council of Washington, DC. I was pleased to submit a letter and position paper to Mr. Bowser and Ms. Kendall yesterday on behalf of Humanities DC. The humanities are a valuable source of social, economic and political enrichment to the District and they must no longer be overlooked or underfunded. I am in complete agreement that the arts need more funding and I understand that the humanities are included in that broad term, but to be clear, there is a large gap between funding for the arts and funding for the humanities. And yet our work is vital across the city.

When HumanitiesDC began to take the humanities disciplines out of the closed doors of academic institutions, and began to put them it into the hands of residents, the humanities became “local” and “neighborhood-generated.” As a result, residents across all our Wards are creating humanities programs that are by & for the residents of DC, are improving the quality of life in our city, and are expanding our local creative economy.

We also use our grants and programs to address some of our challenges. For example –    

We cannot allow persistent urban redevelopment to wipe out our historical memory; we must honor our city’s history and architecture. Our DC Community Heritage Program does that.

We must prepare our children to take their place in our city’s new economy through building their leadership and workplace skills. Our Soul of the City Youth Development Program does that.

We must maintain the desire of new and longtime residents to stay in DC, by engaging them in the full spectrum of civic activities. Our popular Humanitini series and Who is A Washingtonian? discussions help with this.

As you continue planning for the creative economy, please know that the humanities belong there too.  They are an essential part of its eco-system and I will tell you why. It is easy to see that historic preservation is the linchpin of industries like tourism or neighborhood development. But if you think about it a little, surely you can see that:

Across the board, our residents tend to be intellectually curious and are willing to pay for new experiences or pay to learn something new. Think about how popular the offerings on living social are or the programs at Busboys and Poets. Those are Humanities products.

The humanities economy includes academics and grass-roots scholars. It includes ancs, civic associations, churches and schools – all producing and transmitting and consuming the humanities in every neighborhood. 

We encourage mayor-Elect Bowser not to overlook the power of the humanities to provide an abundant and renewable resource to improve our city and the economic future of all DC residents. We urge her to include in her plans support for the many local residents who enjoy and work in the field of neighborhood-generated humanities. Thank you!