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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, April 12, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsCFVI Set to Replace Former Humanities Council

CFVI Set to Replace Former Humanities Council

Dee Baecher-Brown, president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, which is taking on the administration of National Endowment for the Humanities funds for humanities projects in the territory.

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands intends to expand its mission to include overseeing federal grant funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Typically, NEH money is distributed in relatively small amounts of a few thousand dollars to grassroots organizations in a given region. While “the humanities” can include a vast array of subjects, grant money often goes to support the history and culture of a community.

In a live-streamed presentation Thursday, CFVI President Dee Baecher-Brown and other staff discussed their plans and asked for input from the public. The foundation actually began distributing NEH funds to V.I. projects in 2020 on a temporary basis but is now going through the application process to formalize the relationship.

Founded in 1990, CFVI has served as an umbrella organization for local non-profit organizations and non-governmental projects and programs and has been a conduit for philanthropic donations to various facets of the community.

In the past three years, Baecher-Brown said, CFVI has awarded $1.2 million of NEH funds to groups in the territory.

“It has been a serious learning opportunity,” she said since it is a bit different from the foundation’s other work.

Baecher-Brown said the NEH reached out to the Community Foundation to take on the job, which used to be handled by the Virgin Islands Humanities Council. That council has not been active since 2013 and officially lost NEH support in 2014.

“It’s a little different the way they’re doing it,” Baecher-Brown said, noting that the NEH usually seeks bids from existing organizations in a jurisdiction to manage Humanities grants. In this case, it asked CFVI to submit an application on a non-competitive basis.

Other than CFVI staff, there were few participants at Thursday’s presentation, but those who did attend generally expressed support for the move.

The foundation has drafted an application, including a three-year plan, which it must submit to NEH by March 15. It is seeking input on the plan from the public. Staff asked that comments be sent to CFVI by March 8 so that they may be considered for incorporation into the plan.

Under the plan, CFVI will “assess the current state of humanities organizations” in the territory and hold public forums and workshops to identify potential grantees and collaborators. It will rely on the Governor’s Office to appoint members of a board that will assess applications for grants.

By the end of the first year of operations, it expects to design the initial grant program. In the second year, it will hold a “Showcase and Networking Event” to connect with the community at large.

The plan also calls for offering technical assistance and guidance to grantees.

To view the plan, click here. 

Beth Nuttall, the CFVI manager for the program, said, “Right now we’re very limited in the funding we get,” but if the foundation’s application is approved by NEH, it will take on a greater role in the administration of grants.

Responding to questions, Baecher-Brown said CFVI wants to work closely with non-profit organizations but she shied away from the idea of including their representatives on the Humanities board, citing concerns about conflicts of interest.

She was circumspect in responding to questions related to the defunct Humanities Council, saying only it was her understanding from NEH that the council wasn’t able to handle some of the federal requirements and adding that “resources to meet federal requirements” are limited in a small community.

The V.I. Humanities Council was formed as a tax-exempt entity in 1987. Over the years, it channeled millions of dollars to myriad programs in various humanities areas. In the 2000s, it focused especially on history and culture.

A 2011 Humanities Council press release announced it was accepting applications for mini-grants of up to $1,250 each for organizations on St. Croix conducting projects examining the theme “Place, Time, Memory” as a way to pay tribute to different areas on the island with cultural connotations.

In 2006, it sponsored “We the People,” a live presentation of historical monologues by people acting the parts of Queen Breffau, a leader of the St. John Revolt of 1733-34; of Queen Mary, who helped lead the Fireburn on St. Croix in 1878 and Queen Coziah of the Mexican Silver Riot on St. Thomas in 1892.

In 2010, it produced the 25th Annual Showcase, an evening of food, dance and entertainment celebrating the diversity of the Virgin Islands community.

The council quietly faded away, and it is unclear why. In October 2013, a release from the council blamed a federal budget crisis. It said staff was being furloughed since NEH had to shut down because of a lack of funding. However, that situation was only temporary.

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