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Grant paves way to humanities project

By Sean Callahan, Staff Writer

A new financial opportunity was announced by Public Relations via a news release email on Feb. 9. The Humanities Programs of SVC received a $15,987 grant from PA Humanities, an organization dedicated to advancing knowledge, access to, and support for humanities in Pennsylvania.

The grant, according to the PA Humanities website, was part of an initiative announced by PA Humanities on Dec. 16, 2021, called PA Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP). This initiative provided $1.4 million in recovery funds to 92 Pennsylvania organizations.

Grant recipients included museums, historical societies and libraries. Recipients were selected with an emphasis on equity and geographic diversity. Saint Vincent College was one of 337 applicants to apply for the grant. Grantees joined the PA SHARP Learning Network, just as SVC did, to help build humanities programming and outreach to their institution.

Lauren Churilla, curator of the McCarl Gallery and director of Digital Humanities at SVC, explained that although she was unsure what specifically earned SVC the grant, she felt several anecdotes in the grant application made the college stand out.

(Credit: Saint Vincent College) Lauren Churilla is the curator of the McCarl Gallery and director of Digital Humanities at SVC.

“Many people came through the McCarl Gallery during the vaccine clinic, and had profound experiences from the art they saw,” Churilla said. “It created an emotional connection for them.”

She also felt that the interwoven student experiences within digital humanities was another factor that made the application for the grant successful.

According to Churilla, the largest grant amount that could be awarded to an organization was $16,000, meaning that SVC humanities received one of the highest awards. She is confident that this grant will be beneficial for the future of the humanities.

“In the past, students, especially those in the Public History program, have been able to use the McCarl Gallery to practice exhibition planning, collections management, interpretation and writing for the public history sector. The pandemic severely limited that ability,” Churilla said.

The pandemic is also a key factor that prompted the distribution of PA SHARP grants. According to the PA Humanities website, “applicants to PA SHARP reported losses totaling $176 million, revealing the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector.”

Churilla explained that the PA SHARP grant will be used for a four-part project for SVC humanities. The parts will be broken down into the creation of a podcast series, an oral history project, and digital and physical exhibitions. All will include historical, occupational, or cultural viewpoints of masking internationally. Churilla hopes this will help capture the full scope masking, even as it relates to the ongoing pandemic.

“For example, there was a movement in colonial America, affluent women wore black masks for fashion purposes,” Churilla said. “In America, we don’t have a masking culture at large. Africa and Asia do.”

Churilla also hopes the new exhibitions and podcast will explore meaningful stories about people’s experiences during the pandemic and masking mandates.

“I want this gallery space to help us expand upon stories about masking, people’s experiences during times of COVID,” Churilla said. “I want us to look at this history of masking and see what it looks like from their experience.”

Churilla welcomes further artwork ideas for the McCarl Gallery as well as podcast suggestions from the student body. Proposals for podcasts in part one of the humanities project will be accepted until Feb. 25. Further information on the upcoming Saint Vincent College project can be found at

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