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Adams County Arts Council seeks input on “People Project” grant

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The Adams County Arts Council (ACAC) has received a $16,000 grant from PA Humanities as part of its $1.4 million recovery and growth program. Called PA SHARP (Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan), the initiative provides flexible funding to strengthen and grow the humanities across the state. Grantees join the new PA SHARP Learning Network, a special statewide learning group that fosters resource sharing, networking, professional development, and mutual support. ACAC will use PA SHARP funding to expand on a community performance and visual art installation project called The People Project.

Adams County residents, government officials, business owners, and non-profit representatives are invited to attend one of two planning meetings for this community-wide performance and visual arts project on Feb. 2 and 3 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Adams County Arts Council. Registration is preferred but not required. To RSVP, visit www.adamsarts.org.

The People Project addresses current needs to hear diverse voices and cultivate empathy in our community. Entering its fifth production year, The People Project started in 2017 as a simple staged reading at Gettysburg College’s Stevens Theatre, under the direction of then-guest artist Lisa Cadigan. The Project’s goal is to celebrate diversity and encourage empathy by giving voice to common experiences from a variety of perspectives. Themes from previous projects have included “Stories of Compassion, Inclusion and Diversity,” “Stories of Home,” and “Masks of Oppression.” Past participants have included people of all ages and backgrounds living in Adams County.

In 2021, ACAC produced the “The People Project 2021: Stories of the Unexpected” with support from the Glatfelter Family Foundation as an after-school program for middle and high school students that culminated in a video rather than an in-person performance. The final 40-minute video project (viewable on YouTube) included musical performances, interviews, visual art presentations, and first-person narratives read aloud by their authors. 

For 2022, the PA SHARP grant enables ACAC to expand The People Project into a county-wide event that combines the original staged reading format with the visual art, music, and video components added in 2021. It includes plans for a permanent, public art installation to reflect the shared stories and serve as a historical marker. 

The People Project is just one part of ACAC’s larger outreach expansion initiative intended to build creative connections between diverse communities in Adams County. “Everyone has a story,” says ACAC Executive Director Leona Rega. “ACAC is proud to spearhead this important project, which encourages kind and productive conversations and creative place-making among diverse voices, to cultivate the empathy necessary for community healing and meaningful connections.” 

The People Project is participant-driven; it empowers members of the community to choose themes relevant to Adams County residents, who then have the chance to explore those themes through research, discussion, creative writing, music, and fine arts. It deliberately integrates arts and culture into community revitalization work socially (by building empathy, expanding perspective, and changing perceptions); economically (by attracting residents and visitors to engage in a cultural experience, which encourages patronizing local businesses); educationally (by inviting area schools and educators to partner in recruiting participants and facilitate sections of the project); and historically (by creating an event that will mark a pivotal moment in our community’s history). 

“The humanities are on the ground putting people first by making spaces for new voices, supporting meaningful learning experiences, and fostering healing and resiliency in communities of all sizes,” said Laurie Zierer, executive director of PA Humanities. “PA SHARP further strengthens this essential work through network building, financial support, and reimagining the possibilities of the humanities across the state.”

The 92 recipients of the PA SHARP grant represent museums, historical societies, libraries, and other vital cultural institutions across Pennsylvania. They were carefully selected with an emphasis on equity and geographic diversity. Funds from PA SHARP aim to help address the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector by supporting creative programming, capacity building, and general operations. In addition to funding, the PA SHARP Learning Network will build a statewide community of people passionate about creating inclusive, engaged communities that are ready to lead the statewide recovery alongside PA Humanities.

Funding for PA SHARP comes from PA Humanities’ federal partner, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Recognizing the financial realities of the pandemic and the vital importance of the humanities to economic and civic life, this legislation allocated to the NEH funds to “prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the coronavirus.” Additional funding comes from Spring Point Partners to support 16 organizations that serve Philadelphia’s BIPOC and new immigrant communities. The full list of PA SHARP grantees is available at pahumanities.org/pasharp.

To learn more or to become involved in The People Project 2022 in Adams County as a volunteer, sponsor, contributor, artist, or performer, please attend at least one of the two planning meetings scheduled at the Adams County Arts Council’s Arts Education Center, 125 S. Washington Street, Gettysburg. Meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, February 2 and Thursday, February 3 from 5-7 p.m. (Inclement weather delay date: Wednesday, Feb. 9). Pre-registration is preferred, but not required. Topics for discussion will include performance scheduling, venue(s), and selection of a theme that reflects Adams County. All are welcome. Pre-registration is preferred, but not required. Pre-register on ACAC’s website: www.adamsarts.org or call (717) 334-5006. Additional questions can be addressed to Lisa Cadigan, ACAC Director of Outreach and Community Resources: lcadigan@adamsarts.org.

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