Council Receives NEH Grant for Free Land Chautauqua

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded Humanities Nebraska (HN) with a $136,400 grant with an additional federal match of $80,000 to support its new Chautauqua program, “Free Land? 1862 and the Shaping of Modern America.” The Free Land Chautauqua debuted May 20-25 in partnership with Homestead National Monument of America and the community of Beatrice. In addition to the May event, which coincided with the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act, Chautauqua will tour six communities in Nebraska from 2013-2015.

“We are thrilled to partner with Homestead National Monument and Beatrice to have the Free Land Chautauqua play such an integral role in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act,” said Kristi Hayek, HN Chautauqua coordinator. “We are very honored to begin to explore the influences of these three pieces of legislation in Beatrice and then, thanks to the support of the NEH grant, continue that exploration and discussion in other Nebraska communities over the next few years.”

Each host community will experience nearly a week of educational programming during Chautauqua, including five presentations under the big tent by scholars portraying the historical figures; workshops for adults and children offered by the Chautauqua scholars on topics related to the impacts of the 1862 legislation; a Youth Chautauqua Camp for middle-school students to uncover their local history; a reading and film series that would take place in advance of Chautauqua; a traveling exhibit; and many other activities.

“Chautauqua is a program with a great deal of tradition in Nebraska, and with the Free Land Chautauqua we are preserving an outstanding humanities program while also allowing for innovation and modernization to make it appeal to a broader audience,” said HN Executive Director Chris Sommerich. “This NEH grant was awarded in a very competitive environment, and it is a real vote of confidence in the excellence of the program.”

For more information about the Free Land Chautauqua and a full schedule of past 2012 events in Beatrice please visit



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