Halfway through the LVEHC Grant, handlers of $950,000 sum reflect on accomplishments

Co-directors Andrea Smith and Charlotte Nunes spoke about the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium (LVEHC) grant with the grant principal investigator Provost Abu Rizvi on Wednesday. Smith is a professor of anthropology and sociology at the college, and Nunes is the director of digital scholarship services.

Smith, Nunes and Rizvi collaborated with coordinator Kate Pitts in organizing and developing the proposal for the LVEHC grant. Lafayette College received the grant of $950,000 for four years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in July 2017.

An information session was held to discuss some accomplishments of the second year of the grant money.

“The grant has been remarkably successful,” said Smith.

According to Smith, the grant has provided a dialogue between and within communities in the Lehigh Valley area and has therefore made the community more connected.

Nunes added that the grant is vitally important as over the past half century, the Lehigh Valley has experienced a transformation in who lives and works here.

“The goal of the grant is to enhance research and teaching opportunities centered on the past half-century in the Lehigh Valley, and, in service of this goal, to increase collaboration among area colleges, community organizations, and cultural institutions such as museums and libraries,” Nunes said.

“These changes needed to be brought onto our campus,” Smith added, saying that some of the themes of the grant include changing nature of work, changing environment, diversity of communities and sense of place, which tie into many people’s interests and concerns throughout this area.

Nunes said that the grant has been particularly successful so far in providing support for students and faculty pursuing community-engaged projects.

Some of the successes of the grant money so far have included 10 course development projects, 10 public events, seven digital archive projects, six artist collaborations, three workshops and one exhibition, amongst other accomplishments.

“The consortium members’ focus on oral history was an unexpected direction that has been so fun to work on and is a direction that will leave a lasting record,” added Smith.

In the future, the grant will continue to help develop ways to connect the community, such as with “inside-out” museums with “living” exhibits in the Karl Stirner arts trail, and new arts trail projects for Allentown.

The grant involves six colleges and universities in the Lehigh Valley area: Lafayette, Cedar Crest, DeSales, Lehigh, Moravian and Muhlenberg, along with four cultural institutions (the Allentown Art Museum, the Sigal Museum, the Easton Area Public Library and the Karl Stirner Arts Trail), and the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium.

Smith added that a writers retreat will be hosted in June to foster creative writing involving undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and community. Similar retreats will be held during the remaining two years of the grant.

Nunes mentioned that one of the main outcomes of this grant will be the Digital Archive, including primary source materials providing sources for educators, scholars and students who want to explore the transformation of Lehigh Valley over the past half century.

Nunes explained the intention of the LVEHC Mellon Grant is to provide a lasting impact, stretching past the four years of the grant.

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