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Celebrating Wisconsin’s Literary Artists

by Thomas Durkin

In a classy ceremony held at the Woodland Pattern Book Center last month, the Wisconsin Arts Board awarded seven literary artists with 2003 Artist Fellowship Awards. Prior to the event, a casually dressed crowd of about 40 people browsed Woodland Pattern’s gallery enjoying John Ruebartsch’s large black-and-white photographs which celebrate the history of Riverwest. A program with photos and bios of the literary fellows was provided and several in attendance whispered and nodded to those nearby as they identified the artists among them. As the honorary reading began, a representative of the Wisconsin Arts Board explained that the awards are intended to further the craft of the honorees. He also expressed regret that due to budget cuts, the awards had been trimmed from $8,000 to $7,000, noting that the number of applicants was down significantly because the Arts Board could not afford to mail out fellowship information. He urged those in attendance to actively support the arts whenever possible. By this time the audience had settled into their seats and, although several of the readings exceeded the 10 to 15 minute time limit, the audience remained attentive and enthralled as each artist read excerpts from their body of work. Devin Corbin provided one of the more provocative readings. Corbin read from “Salvage,” a humorous, yet powerful essay from a collection dealing with the history of a farm that has been in his family for four generations. Presenting a sympathetic view of farm life, Corbin described how American consumerism is not necessarily defined by the purchasing of goods, but rather by how easily most Americans throw things away. This suggestion elicited a collective sigh from members of the largely urban dwelling audience. Another recipient was Shauna Singh Baldwin, a Milwaukee resident who earned an MBA from Marquette University. Baldwin’s first novel, What the Body Remembers, was awarded the 2000 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Canada and is being translated into nine other languages. She is currently working on her second novel. The wine and cheese reception that followed allowed audience members to meet and congratulate the artists and to browse the recently inventoried bookshelves of Woodland Pattern. For more information about the Wisconsin Arts Board and future Artist Fellowship Awards, please visit arts.state.wi.us. To find out what is happening at Woodland Pattern this month, check the Community Calendar. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 9 – September 2003