Keira: I will never forget the enthusiasm and pride of the Angola, Indiana Frankenfest organizers as they shared with the Indiana Humanities board and staff (during our retreat in northeast Indiana) their monstrous plans for the upcoming event. They had assembled a broad and creative planning committee and engaged dozens of businesses and organizations to make their event a unique success. It was particularly moving how the community planned to use the gathering to welcome, engage and learn together with their neighbors.
George: Back in February I attended a program at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour (it was a talk on Indiana’s African American history that Indiana Humanities funded with a grant). After the program, I wandered around the library and was delighted to see a bright pink cart decorated with pictures of Frankenstein’s monster and loaded with copies of Frankenstein and related horror books. Indiana Humanities had just kicked off our One State / One Story: Frankenstein initiative in the fall, and this was my first time seeing the campaign in action at one of our partners. I was proud of the JCPL’s enthusiasm, and I knew then that the statewide celebration was indeed “alive.”
Kristen: When I arrived at the Crawfordsville Frankenfest, with my three young kids in tow, I was a bit skeptical that they would walk away with a deeply enriching experience—I knew we would all have fun—but I wasn’t sure it would make an imprint on them. I figured they would probably make some green creatures and listen to a few books, and then we would be on our way. We did those things, of course, and more. But after we left—that’s when the magic happened. That night as we lay in bed, my 5-year-old asked for me to tell him a story, as usual. So I told him a Frankenstein-like story about a creature who was unlike the others around him and was ridiculed for it. I put my own happy spin on it by having my son befriend him. After I was done, we talked about some of the issues that the book raises. And he asked questions—lots of questions, mostly to stall bedtime. And we answered them together. Months later, we still talk about Frankenstein, and the creature, and we adapt our story. (We also still use the green Frankenfest cup they handed out with popcorn in it; it turns blue when cold water is poured into it!) It reminds me that we can all learn from this incredible story, no matter what age we are.
Leah: At the end of the Frankenstein Weekend Retreat, which was characterized throughout by a pervading sense of good will, excitement and intellectual curiosity, we asked attendees to share what they’ll take away and what it meant to them to be there. One woman told us that attending was her reward to herself for completing chemotherapy. One said that it was so refreshing to attend something like this that was just about her own intellectual development—not tied to her job or how to do it better, but really just to ask questions and talk about ideas. One man said he saw how literature is something we can use to talk about the biggest questions we face as a society. And one person said how grateful she was just to have access to the humanities scholars and to hear them share their expertise. In turn, one of the scholars who teaches at a public university, reflected that it was equally gratifying to know that the people of Indiana value the work she does as a humanities scholar, especially since the larger conversation around public education and college often devalues or demeans the importance of humanities research and learning. Each of these responses made my public humanist heart very full.
Betty: Seeing the ladies from Angola make the Frankenstein celebration into a community-wide event is something I never would’ve imagined. It’s as if it took on a life of its own. In addition, the one event that I was able to attend was to see the team from Ball State perform storytelling in my favorite form – music! Indiana Humanities fostered thinking and creativity and the state of Indiana ran with it.
Bronwen: The real joy of One State / One Story: Frankenstein for me this year was planning and attending the Weekend Retreat at the Prindle Institute in Greencastle. It was the first time we attempted to do an intensive book retreat like this, and it was an absolute blast, despite the fluke late-March snowstorm. However, that only seemed to add to the atmospheric fun of the weekend, drawing from the book’s snowy Genevan setting. A recap of our retreat, featuring details about the book-themed meals, décor and swag, can be found here.
Claire: I will never forget the electric energy at Frankenfest which was our kick-off to One State / One Story: Frankenstein. It was such a joy to see Hoosiers young and old from near and far come together to celebrate the classic tale. From the Franks-N-Steins beer garden to the creepy curatorial talks about objects from the Medical History Museum, we had so much fun drawing out many aspects of the novel for the festival.
Megan: As Frankenstein Program Manager, it’s impossible for me to pick my most memorable experience with Frankenstein this year. The enthusiasm of our partners and the breadth and depth of programming they produced blew me away each and every day of this project. In a single week, I might attend a book discussion, tune in to a live-streamed read-a-thon, attend a presentation from an Indiana scholar or see a group of students gathered to experiment with electricity. One of the most incredible things I saw was the Delphi Opera House’s production of Robots: A Modern Opera. In addition to book discussions at the library, the conversation continued on the stage with a story of robots replacing human labor. It was one of the most deeply engaging programs I saw connecting a contemporary technological threat to our understanding of ourselves and our world to the anxieties Mary Shelley expressed through Frankenstein. As technologies proliferate, insinuating themselves in our lives, relationships and work, how will we create a meaningful life? It’s one of the big questions I’ll carry with me from this year of Franken-fun.