Three area nonprofit institutions have received federal CARES Act grants through the National Endowment for the Humanities to help retain staff.
Hastings College, Hastings Museum and the National Willa Cather Center received a total of more than $550,000 in supplemental grant funding included in the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Hastings College received a $300,000 grant. Funds from the grant will be used to support the Languages and Literatures Department and the Hastings College Arts and Humanities Division, which includes the history, religion and philosophy departments, according to a news release from the college issued Tuesday.
￼Grant funds will help support full- and part-time humanities faculty, prepare humanities faculty to offer interactive hybrid and online courses, and redesign several foundational humanities courses for hybrid and online instruction. A hybrid course is one that’s partly in-person and partly online.
Robert Babcock is a Hastings College history professor who wrote the grant application and will serve as the project’s director.
“Our goal isn’t to re-create online courses you could get at any other college or university but rather to create courses that replicate the faculty and student interaction Hastings College is known for,” Babcock said in the release.
When the pandemic pushed Hastings College courses online, one challenge the college faced was transitioning humanities classes online. To create more effective hybrid and online courses, the grant will fund professional development workshops offered this summer by a consultant with extensive experience in online humanities education.
Hastings College will work with Matthew Duperon, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Susquehanna University, to design a one-day professional development workshop for the humanities faculty. The workshop will employ a set of guidelines for online courses developed by a consortium of educators to outline and discuss the critical components of successful online courses. Duperon will work with each faculty participant to develop ideas for use in hybrid and online courses.
Faculty in the humanities division then will spend the following month redesigning at least one foundational humanities course to be offered in the hybrid or online modalities.
“The humanities at Hastings College are an essential resource for the education of our students, and I am thankful we received this grant to help maintain faculty and to create new, engaging courses,” Babcock said.
The Hastings Museum, which is owned and operated by the city of Hastings, received a $123,027 grant that will be used to support staff involved in the second-floor comprehensive exhibit plan.
The project includes verifying the existing collections by taking a full inventory and determining what stories the museum is best equipped to tell. The plan will consider structural strengths and limitations of the physical space and determine the best way to relocate the Kool-Aid exhibit to the top floor. The project will define the elements of a new permanent exhibit to tell the story of the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, a nearly 49,000-acre facility in Adams and Clay counties that was of great significance during World War II.
￼Becky Matticks, Hastings Museum executive director, said the National Endowment for the Humanities grant will allow the museum to keep staff working on the project.
“This is big for us,” she said. “We didn’t want to lose anyone involved in the redesign of second floor.”
While the project itself is being funded by the half-cent sales tax, Matticks said, the shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic put the employment of staff involved in the project in jeopardy. The grant will allow the museum to retain five staff members who are working on the project.
“These funds are an amazing complement to the support coming our way locally from the half-cent sales tax,” Matticks said.
The museum also received another $8,900 grant from the Humanities Nebraska CARES Grant.
The National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud, operated by the Willa Cather Foundation, received a grant of $134,060 to retain five staff members and diversify its offerings.
Funds will be used to create new online and mobile app virtual/audio tours, increase digital accessibility to a selection of collection materials, and erect new outdoor interpretation, according to a statement from the center. The award also supports planning for a phased re-opening. The center’s education director and archivist, Tracy Tucker, will be project director of the initiatives.
“We are so very grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for their generous grant as part of the CARES Act which provides assistance for projects with nonprofit cultural organizations like the National Willa Cather Center,” according to the statement. “Their support, often in collaboration with Humanities Nebraska, allows us to do what we do in the arts and museum world in furthering Willa Cather’s extraordinary legacy.”
The local grant awards were among $40.3 million in new CARES Act economic stabilization grants to support essential operations at more than 300 cultural institutions across the country announced Monday by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In March, NEH received $75 million in supplemental grant funding through the CARES Act, according to a NEH press release. The agency already had distributed $30 million of that funding to the 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils to support local cultural nonprofits and educational programming. Through the regranting of federal support, the councils reach an estimated annual audience of 137 million people.
The Humanities Endowment received more than 2,300 eligible applications from cultural organizations requesting more than $370 million in funding for projects between June and December. Only about 14% of the applicants were funded.
Given the highly competitive nature of the grants, Matticks said, the Hastings Museum was fortunate to be among the recipients.
“We are so proud to have submitted one of the projects that was selected,” she said. “It tells us we’re doing the right things.”