Applications are open for the 2021 Kresge Artist Fellowships, which offer $25,000 no-strings-attached grants and professional development to Detroit artists. Administered by Kresge Arts in Detroit, the fellowship program is open to artists in different disciplines each year; this cycle, Kresge will award ten fellowships to artists working in the literary arts, and ten to artists working in the visual arts. Literary arts may include arts criticism, creative nonfiction, graphic novels, poetry, spoken word, zines, or interdisciplinary work. Across disciplines, the fellowship program seeks to “recognize creative vision and commitment to excellence” and is available to emerging and established artists alike. Within the fellowship application, artists are invited to indicate if they would also like to be considered for the Gilda Awards—$5,000 no-strings-attached grants specifically designated for emerging artists—if they are not selected as fellows.
Using only the online submission system, complete a series of questionnaires and statements about your practice, biography, and community impact, and submit this information along with a resume and three to eight work samples by January 14. Residents of Michigan’s Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties are eligible. There is no entry fee. Work samples may be text, audio, or video files. An anonymous panel of both national and local artists and art professionals will judge. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Funded by the Kresge Foundation and administered by the College for Creative Studies, Kresge Arts in Detroit seeks to strengthen and celebrate the artistic communities in metropolitan Detroit. In addition to the Kresge Artists Fellowships and Gilda Awards, the organization also selects a single artist each year for the $50,000 Kresge Eminent Artist Award. Over the past twelve years, Kresge has dispensed over $6 million in funding to local artists.
First off, I’d like to share some cheer with a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms of the world. You change the world, moms—don’t ever forget it.
As we all continue to adjust to life in the COVID-19 era, I wanted to include in this blog some of the ways Houston has been rising to the occasion to work its literary magic. This month, I will be writing about three different spaces and organizations that have been adapting their programs and events for the virtual world.
Today I’ll focus on the University of Houston’s CoogSlam—the name is a nod to the university mascot, the cougar, and slam poetry. The group is less than three years old and has already garnered national attention with its slam team for the collegiate competition known as CUPSI, the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.
Before the University of Houston made the decision to keep its doors closed for the rest of the spring semester, CoogSlam was hosting writing workshops and a weekly slam and now, they have seamlessly adapted to the virtual world and continued their work. CoogSlam offers writing workshops on Wednesdays and has an open mic on Saturdays, all online. Writers and spectators can join from a link to a Google form available on their Instagram page, @uhcoogslam. The rest is a purely, magical experience. Just this past week, CoogSlam hosted an open mic featuring the talented Ryan McMasters, and from what I have heard it was stupendous. I can’t wait to see who is featured next.
You can also follow CoogSlam on Twitter, @uhcoogslam, for their latest news and events. They are doing big things and representing the city in such a humble and honest way. It is a delight to see what they do.Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.
A Danish organization challenges library patrons worldwide to confront prejudices and change perspectives through conversations with “human books.”
To conclude my Black History Month themed posts, I interviewed poet Sunni Patterson. Patterson was instrumental in giving voice to New Orleans through her poetry after Hurricane Katrina. The performance of her poem “We Made It” on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam has over six hundred thousand views on YouTube. In many ways Patterson has become the face of New Orleans spoken word.
How has New Orleans shaped your poetry?
When you’re born and raised in New Orleans, you can’t help but have poetry in your bones. Even if you don’t know what it is, or what to call it, it’s there. From the way a story is told, the sayings, the anecdotes—all of it shapes my artistry. I know the music, air, culture, thickness of the city contributes to the sound of my poems.
Take us back to your appearance on Def Poetry Jam in 2007, what was that moment like for you?
I was asked to do it years before that performance. For some reason, I didn’t want to do it. Fast forward to after Hurricane Katrina. I’d just finished speaking at the University of Houston when I got the call from producers. I agreed immediately! I knew my voice and point of view about Hurricane Katrina and its impact on the city and residents needed to be heard.
I had no clothes after Katrina. A box of clothing from a church in Houston was sent to me. Most of the things I didn’t keep. I kept a crop top. I already had some denim material I wanted to use. I was leaving the next day, I called Mama Rukiya, she sewed something quickly with mudcloth and made detachable sleeves. Chile, I was sewing myself into the dress until it was time to go on stage! The needle and thread were still in the seams. It was a great experience.
Who are some of your poetry influences?
Ayi Kwei Armah, Lucille Clifton, Jayne Cortez, Neville Goddard, Zora Neale Hurston, Acklyn Lynch, Brenda Marie Osbey, Arturo Pfister, Rumi, Kalamu ya Salaam, Mona Lisa Saloy, and Sonia Sanchez.
What message do you have for the future writers of New Orleans?
My hope for the next generation of writers is to have hope. To hold the light. To honor the ancestors, elders, culture, children, and spirit of the city, but most importantly, to do the ugly, yet necessary, work of the heart. Those are the things that’ll keep them and us alive.