If you’re a creative person living in Providence, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with What Cheer Writers Club and The Avenue Concept. Both are nonprofits dedicated to providing community, space, and support to writers and artists. Near the beginning of the pandemic, What Cheer surveyed its members to discover how the Club could support them through the quarantine. While many struggled with a loss of income and space, the greatest barrier to creative practice was a lack of focus.
In response, What Cheer launched weekly virtual write-ins, supplying writing prompts for inspiration. One week, writers were asked to respond to "She Never Came" by BEZT, a haunting image that covers the side of the church on Mathewson Street, downtown. The Club prompt appeared on Twitter, catching the eye of John Taraborelli of The Avenue Concept, the organization that had commissioned the mural.
Taraborelli connected the two organizations and What Cheer staff worked with him and Fran Loosen of The Avenue Concept to curate a selection of public artwork for the Club to use as writing prompts. “Condemned” by Richard Goulis; “Misty Blue” by Andrew Hem; “Night Flight” by Lauren YS; and “The revolution starts in the earth with the self” by Jess X. Snow are among the selections members will use as inspiration. The project, named Ecstatic Ekphrastic, encourages members to participate and submit their compositions for various prizes and the chance to present at a public reading in mid-August.
“As summer arrives and our state begins to reopen, Ecstatic Ekphrastic is an opportunity for Rhode Island writers to engage safely with outdoor spaces and deepen their connection to Providence’s thought-provoking creative works,” says Jodie Vinson, What Cheer Writers Club program manager.
Taraborelli agrees, and states "Our two organizations came together to collaborate on this because not only are we big fans of each other's work, but we felt that both could provide value to the community even during a time of social distancing. Public art never closes and writers never stop writing, so why not combine the two? Plus, we just want to read some cool stories and poems inspired by these works of art."