The Next Indiana Campfires program pairs nature and literature to ignite conversations about the future of Indiana, especially relating to place and environmental stewardship. The program takes Hoosiers on hikes, bike rides and paddling trips through significant Indiana landscapes; during the treks, co-led by humanities scholars and naturalists, participants pause periodically to read aloud Hoosier environmental literature. Afterwards, the group gathers together around a campfire for a meal and conversation. Next Indiana Campfires launched in 2016 during the Pulitzer Prize centennial and Indiana bicentennial, taking as inspiration the writings of Edwin Way Teale, a Dunesland native and Pulitzer Prize winner.
“According to the national 2017 Culture Track survey of arts audiences, people are hungry for experiences that let them have fun, learn something new and relax. They also see parks and greenspaces as places for cultural activity,” said Leah Nahmias, director of programs at Indiana Humanities. “Given this data, it’s not surprising that Next Indiana Campfires has struck a chord for so many Hoosiers and drawn praise from across the country.”
Judges of the Schwartz Prize nominations lauded the program as “groundbreaking” and a “remarkable confluence of the humanities with the natural world.” They also stated that “it is innovative and potentially productive well beyond the norm in its interaction between the humanities, a broad range of the state’s citizenry, and the natural environment. It is thus richly deserving of the Schwartz Prize.”
“The Schwartz Prize is awarded every year to a council that demonstrates, among other things, innovation in public humanities’ programming,” said Esther Mackintosh, Federation of State Humanities Councils president. “Next Indiana Campfires does just that by making the humanities central to environmental conversations happening across the state—even bringing together two opposing groups in collaborative dialogue through an examination of literature and an experience in nature. It’s a truly remarkable program that has the potential to be replicated across state lines and draw together new audiences in conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen. We are so proud of Indiana Humanities and are thrilled to recognize Next Indiana Campfires with this award.”
In two years of the program, Indiana Humanities has held 23 Next Indiana Campfires events for more than 750 people, and worked with 20 community partners and eight scholars from across the state. In addition, the organization designed and distributed more than 800 Trek & Talk Toolkits for Hoosiers to use for their own excursions. Thanks to a special grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, the program will continue in 2018 and with a focus on the White River watershed.
“Next Indiana Campfires far surpassed our expectations and we are grateful to our partners and funders for helping to bring this program to life,” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. “We are honored to accept this award but we are most proud of the way we were able to place the humanities at the center of an important statewide conversation about the future of Indiana’s natural resources.”
Indiana Humanities also received the Schwartz Prize in 2012 for Food For Thought and in 1987 for Always a River. Next Indiana Campfires is generously supported by the Efroymson Family Fund, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires and the Ball Brothers Foundation.
About the Schwartz Prize
Each year the Federation of State Humanities Councils awards the Schwartz Prize to up to three councils for outstanding work in the public humanities. The prize is funded through an endowment from founding Federation board member Martin Schwartz and his wife, Helen. One of their daughters, Deborah Schwartz, presented the 35th annual Schwartz Prize at the 2017 National Humanities Conference in Boston this year.
The Federation of State Humanities Councils
The Federation of State Humanities Councils, founded in 1977 as the membership association of state and territorial councils, provides support for the state humanities councils and strives to create greater awareness of the humanities in public and private life. The state humanities councils are independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations supporting grassroots humanities programs and community-based activities. Humanities councils were created by Congress in the early 1970s and receive an annual congressional appropriation through the National Endowment for the Humanities, which most councils supplement with state and private funding.
For more information about the Federation of State Humanities Councils, please visit: www.statehumanities.org.