Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier
There’s a national program sponsored by a number of Ys which supports writing. These Ys sponsor/act as literary centers.
“Arts and humanities became a YMCA core program area in 1998 … the YMCA National Writer’s Voice, a literary arts center that inspired not only the largest network of literary art centers in the country, but the idea that arts and humanities belongs at YMCA of the USA.”
I wrote and called our Ys for over a year in an effort to have such a center here, obviously without success. I wish we had one of the “More than 25 YMCAs” which “host the YMCA National Writer’s Voice program, a network of independent literary arts centers at YMCAs. Writer’s Voice centers meet the needs of their communities through local programs while sharing national programs, training and other resources.” The nearest one is in New York City, or perhaps the one in Silver Bay is closer.
There are significant number of writers in our area and for years, I have met hundreds of young people interested and engaged in creative writing, through the wonderful Young Author’s Day Program( yay, Eileen Bowen!), the Quarry Farm Program and the peerless Short Story Writing Program (created by writer Karen Alpha).
I don’t mean to lay this at the Y’s feet, but as I’ve spent more than two decades here on various writers group formations, workshops, gatherings and readings, it seems that with a designated keeper-of-the-flame, a lot more could happen.
I have warm memories of readings upstairs in that bar on Market Street…. and am bemused that when “the folks” are involved in their art-making/creating, it is automatically integrated in other stuff of life. What a delight to hear a poem and eat a slice of pizza, have some tea or expresso. The program might include someone’s latest song and an argument might be had about whose favorite poet might win the Nobel Prize. I was right and mine, Derek Walcott, won first. But later, his, Seamus Heaney won. It was delight to run into that poet professor a decade or so later at a conference and compare notes and laugh. Writers are a community here, but they’re homeless.
Musicians have spaces, artists have spaces, dancers have places and while more would be so much more, writers hereabouts have no equivalent. Knowing this, occasions have been created for youth writers. The Short Story Writing contest encourages young writers. For a couple of years I organized a similar effort for young poets. Next door, the venerable Steele Memorial Library sponsors its long-running, all-age-inclusive, annual poetry Festival. But these are just blinks and winks in the cool dark of our unsupporting landscape.