LAWRENCE — Henry Fortunato, director of public affairs at the Kansas City Public Library and director emeritus of the KU History Project, will be the Simons Public Humanities Fellow for 2013-2014 at the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas. He will be in residence at the Hall Center periodically throughout the entire year.
While in residence, Fortunato will work on three complementary projects. He will conduct research with faculty and staff and begin initial draft writing of a book based on his long-distance walks around Kansas, which will examine aspects of Kansas history, culture, literature, geology, ecology, and more; organize and conduct workshops and career counseling sessions for graduate students interested in pursuing nonacademic careers in the humanities; and lead a public history practicum, working with Watkins Community Museum of History, the city of Lawrence and selected graduate students interested in “applied humanities” to produce interpretive signage for the Burroughs Creek Trail and the Haskell Rail-Trail in East Lawrence.
“Upon completion, the [graduate students] will have a solid and tangible project on their CVs and a clear understanding of how to package their scholarly attainments to obtain employment in the public humanities or allied field,” Fortunato said. “And should these outcomes be achieved, the Hall Center for the Humanities will gain a model that can be employed for similar projects and shared with other humanities centers across the country.”
At the Kansas City Public Library, Fortunato leads a department responsible for developing, orchestrating and executing special events programming, marketing, print publications, media relations, community affairs, online communications, social media and exhibits—a massive public outreach effort that in aggregate draws approximately 100,000. The Library’s excellence in public programming was cited by the Institute for Museum and Library Services in 2008 when it awarded the Library a National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries.
Additionally, Fortunato conceptualized and organized the Library’s regional Emmy-nominated KCPT television series "Meet the Past with Crosby Kemper III"; developed numerous successful ongoing speakers series; orchestrated efforts that led to programming partnerships with nearly 100 Kansas City-area organizations; and obtained more than a dozen programming grants from the American Library Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other foundations and donors.
“The energy and excitement that now characterize the rich programming of the Kansas City Public Library owe not a little to Henry Fortunato,” said Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center. “Henry is an educator, public programmer and adman all rolled into one. In recent years, he has walked the back roads of Kansas, and now wishes to bring his experiences together in book form. We look forward to having him in the Hall Center as the Simons Public Humanities Fellow.”
Fortunato will present an illustrated talk about his most recent Kansas trek, a 13-day, 240-mile "Long and Winding Walk to Wichita" that began at his front door in Overland Park last October. The program takes place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at the Kansas City Public Library’s Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., Kansas City, Mo.; a 6 p.m. reception precedes the presentation. Call (816) 701-3407 for more information or to RSVP.
The mission of the Simons fellowship is to bring a citizen of experience, accomplishment and promise from such fields as journalism, business, health care, law, politics, the arts or nonprofit work to the Hall Center for the Humanities to participate in the intellectual life of the university. The Fellowship was made possible by a gift from the Simons family of Lawrence, together with matching funds from a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant. The Simons family has been in the newspaper business in Lawrence since 1891. They are longtime supporters of KU and exponents of the view that education is a lifelong experience.