Indiana Humanities has announced the lineup for this year’s award-winning “Next Indiana Campfires” series. The treks, which pair literature with nature to help Hoosiers explore Indiana’s natural environment and spark conversations about conservation and stewardship, are funded in part by a $40,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Last year, Indiana Humanities was awarded the Schwartz Prize for best humanities program in the country for Next Indiana Campfires.
This year, Next Indiana Campfires will take Hoosiers to various spots—private and public—within the White River watershed to explore the waterway as it meanders among Indiana’s urban, suburban and rural landscapes. A humanities scholar will serve as facilitator and lead attendees on a walk, pausing periodically to read aloud words from Hoosier, Midwest and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. Participants will then gather for food and drink around a campfire to discuss connections between nature, literature and place.
A $32,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in partnership with Pulitzer Prizes, will support the publication of an anthology of texts read during the treks. The anthology will be published in fall 2018 by Wolfsen Press. Funds from Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will also go toward producing up to three short films about the White River, which will be distributed in late 2018 and include stipends for communities to host screenings and discussions.
“Next Indiana Campfires—which began during Indiana’s bicentennial—is an incredibly popular and impactful series of events,” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. “What makes it so unique is that we’re often taking participants somewhere they have never been before, they’re reading works from new authors, and they’re engaging in thoughtful conversation with friends and strangers. People frequently attend more than one because each and every event is different—from the makeup of the attendees, to the locations, readings and discussion points.”
The series locations and dates include:
- Saturday, May 19: Sherwood Forest (Tipton County): Participants will take a wildflower-filled walk through this wooded private nature preserve along Cicero Creek in Tipton County where they’ll consider how farms and forests impact life in the White River watershed.
- Thursday, June 7: Nonie Werbe Kraus Nature Preserve (Fishers): In the midst of one of the nation’s fastest growing suburban areas, there’s a precious remnant of prairie tucked along the White River, reminding us of the ways water and land shape our communities. Participants will take an evening walk, then gather around a campfire to eat, talk and watch the fireflies come out.
- Sunday, July 15: White River near Mounds State Park (Delaware and Madison Counties): There’s a 2,500 acre stretch of uninterrupted woodland lining the White River as it flows through Delaware and Madison Counties. During this four-hour paddling trek, we’ll cover eight miles, experiencing the beauty and tranquility of the water while learning about efforts to conserve this vital stretch of the river via the Mounds Greenway.
- Sunday, Aug. 12: Conner Prairie—Kids and Adults (Fishers): This special trek designed for kids and families will explore how Hoosiers past and present used this important waterway and how our homes, farms and towns affect the river today. Participants should prepare to get muddy—we’ll wade into the White River to get down and dirty as we test the water and learn about plant and animal life in the watershed.
- Sunday, Aug. 12: Conner Prairie—Adults (Fishers): On this adults-only trek, participants will head out over the restored prairies that first drew Native Americans and white settlers to this bend along the White River. Together we’ll consider how this important water way connects us to the past and with other communities in the watershed today.
- Friday, Oct. 24: Urban Wilderness Trail (Indianapolis): Like the White River itself, the Urban Wilderness Trail runs through the heart of Indianapolis, providing vital places for animals and plants to thrive and people to escape the city. We’ll take a sunset hike, following the trail along the White River as we learn about hidden pockets of wildlife and how they are shaped by urban industries and populations.
Each event costs $15-20 and includes food and an Upland Brewing beer (available to those 21 and over). A limited number of need-based waivers are available.
During the first year of Next Indiana Campfires, held during Indiana’s bicentennial, Indiana Humanities coordinated nature outings in some of Indiana’s most significant natural areas—places like the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the newly restored “Limberlost” wetlands and the wide-open prairies of Prophetstown. More than 450 people attended 17 events across the state. In 2017, a limited run of the series continued. Photos are available on request.
Do-it-yourself “Trek and Talk Toolkits” are also available for free to those who want to create their own Next Indiana Campfire. Toolkits include suggested itineraries, a literary text and discussion prompts, a Next Indiana Campfire patch, snacks and more. Learn more at www.IndianaHumanities.org/Campfires.
Partners and sponsors of Next Indiana Campfires include the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Upland Brewing and UGo Bars LLC. Indiana Humanities is supported in part by Lilly Endowment Inc., and the National Endowment for the Humanities.