Be part of a vibrant community of artists and writers
Enhance your creative life
Explore the ways art and writing inspire one another
WHEN I SAW THE ABOVE PROMISES ON A FLYER from the Redwood Coast Writers' Center announcing a project that would pair artists and writers in responding to each other's work (free and open to everyone), I knew I would have to get involved. Though I had belonged to the Writers' Center for over a year, my participation had been limited to paying dues and receiving the newsletter. I had self-published nine poetry chapbooks and written a monthly book review column for a local publication for years, yet I wanted to be doing much more. I felt isolated, stuck, lacking inspiration and support.
Visiting art galleries has always been a source of creative nourishment for me, and the Fall Writers on Site project, as developed and implemented by Marci Nelligan, provided just the right combination of independence and community. It was not a class, and there would be no dreaded feedback (pretty much the only feedback I can tolerate is "that's the best thing I ever read!"). I showed up at the orientation meeting in October to find over 40 people there, not one of whom I'd met in 13 years of living here.
Amazingly, the group turned out to be evenly divided between artists and writers. Many people wanted to communicate only through their art, so we began the project anonymously. However, when I finally did call my artist-partner, Karan Collenberg, anxious over not receiving a quicker response to my first poem, it was such a relief to communicate in person and share creative support that I realized personal connection was in fact one of the greatest benefits of the project.
A woman smiling,
Artwork by Karan Collenberg
As writers and artists, we can be so isolated. Many of us try to work without that vital circle of peers to reflect our process and priorities. Discovering commonalities and differences between the two genres was exciting and expanding.
As the project continued, difficulties emerged: Some people inevitably dropped out, others felt a lack of compatibility with their partner. Artists tended to take longer, writers weren't used to sending out unrevised poems. But the general reaction was positive, even exuberant; one man talked about rushing home every day to check the mail.
My greatest joy was meeting Karan and hearing her warm reaction to my work. She insisted that I leave in a poem's last few lines, which I felt were awkward, saying that they meant too much to her to jettison. This was my kind of feedback!
By the third meeting, we realized the Correspondence Project would be over all too soon. Karan had been forced to take a break to deal with a family crisis, and though I completely understood and supported her, I felt bereft, my momentum lost. After weeks had gone by, I suddenly realized I could pair up with another artist; Walter Pence's glowing pastel of a redwood grove took my breath away, and I was able to commune with it and respond with a poem in time for the show.
Everyone agreed they were stimulated to
produce more work than usual. Differing levels of experience were represented,
and people connected who would never otherwise have met. Respect for each
other's work was the only rule; participants were encouraged to try anything
(and they did)! Because most of us felt it was too soon to end the project,
we have decided to continue it. The second phase will be launched in late
February/early March, and all who are interested are encouraged to call
Marci Nelligan at 822-5221 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of us echoed Marci's sentiment that this project has been "the peak of my creative life so far I don't think it gets much better than this." The exhibit will be my chance (and yours) to see what everyone has been up to since October.
Hats off to Marci, Alan Sanborn, who provided direction in the visual arts, The Ink People, the Writer's Center, and the James Irvine Foundation and Poets & Writers Inc. (who fund and administer Writers on Site) for providing a project in which those promises on the flyer were gloriously fulfilled!
Artists and Writers -- A Community in Correspondence
Opening and reception honoring writers and artists -- Saturday, Feb. 5, 6 p.m., Ink People Gallery, 411 12th St., Eureka. 442-8413
Show runs Feb. 5-25.
For more information about the Redwood Coast Writers' Center and its projects, call 1-800-950-5092; website: www.rcwc.org
The Ink People Center for the Arts offers a wealth of classes and activities.
Call 442-8413; website: www.inkpeople.org