The Maryland Humanities Council

The Maryland Humanities Council: Program Manager Baltimore, MD 2010 – present

In the fall of 2010 I joined the staff at the Maryland Humanities Council to create, develop and manage the Practicing Democracy program. Practicing Democracy uses the humanities (photography, literature, documentary film, oral histories, ethics, philosophy, etc.) to bring people with multiple perspectives together for passionate and respectful dialogue about issues that are critical to the health of their communities. The project encourages Marylanders to get involved in public discourse, promoting civil dialogue and civic engagement on the local level. This program includes interactive community based activities, public dialogues and online platforms designed to engage Maryland residents to specific focus issues and provide safe and open spaces for the sharing of ideas.

Below are examples of current and past programs I developed for the Maryland Humanities Council:

Defying Definitions: Southern Maryland 2013

Defying Definitions: is an interactive program that explores identity, stereotypes and diversity challenging participants to explore how they perceive others, how they are perceived by others and what they understand about themselves. The project utilizes the humanities (film, literature, photography, poetry, etc) to bring people together for dialogue online and in community settings, with the goals of breaking down stereotypes, reducing conflict, and modeling civil and meaningful discussion.

Let’s Be Shore: Eastern Shore of Maryland 2012, 2013

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Let’s Be Shore engaged thousands of Maryland residents bringing together environmentalists, farmers, scientists and homeowners to discuss opinions and perspectives on land use, agriculture and water quality issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The program utilized audio and video interviews as well as short films, speakers, and theater performances to engage and educate individuals on these economic and environmental issues through both public events and an interactive online platform.

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During this program, I collected nearly 30 audio interviews with scientists, farmers, environmentalists, developers, water keepers, and homeowners. These interviews were transcribed and then used for the basis of a series of videos that were made in a partnership with award-winning filmmaker Doug Sadler. The interviews were also then used as the basis for a short play that was written and performed in a public community dialogue. The videos were presented as a part of a traveling interactive listening station and on the Lets Be Shore website. These two platforms provided Maryland residents with the opportunity to hear and share ideas on the current opinions on land use, agriculture and water quality.

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Pilot Dialogues: 2010 – 2011

In 2011, Practicing Democracy produced a series of public forums in four areas in Maryland, exploring issues of natural gas extraction, transportation, cultural diversity, and land use and development for location-specific, issue-based assemblies. 

Practicing Democracy was honored in its first year with the Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize for “Standout in Risk-Taking and Most Demonstrable Community-Changing Outcomes,” an honor given by the Federation of State Humanities Councils

Here is an excerpt from a moderated debate with film maker Josh Fox of “Gasland” and Gregory R. Wrightstone, director of Geology for Pittsburgh-based Texas Keystone Inc and the president of the eastern region of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.  The discussion was held at the Palace Theatre in Frostburg. The event was sponsored by the MD Humanities Council with support from Frostburg State University.

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