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Word Painters moves into hiatus

BY MARISA WAY | APRIL 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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English Professor David Hamilton, the acting director of the Nonfiction Writing Program was very careful to stress the word “suspended” rather than “ended.”

Officials announced at the beginning of the semester that the Word Painter’s last reading — at least for the time being — would be today. The 4-year-old program is a collaboration between the UI Museum of Art and the Nonfiction Writing Program.

Hamilton said that Word Painter was initially started as a way to encourage writers to expand their creativity into the visual arts.

“Its intended purpose was to put prose writers in conjunction with art [so they would] be stimulated toward writings of their own,” Hamilton said. “It was also a goal of the museum to bring more people in — to see work there and to come to readings. The purpose was to put two artistic communities together and to see what would come from there.”

Prior to the damage to the Museum of Art, the Word Painter readings were held there. Also, the institution provided the stipend money for the students selected as Word Painters.

Dale Fisher, the director of education at the museum, said the facility always offered Word Painter the space and support to work. Hamilton agreed, citing the museum as responsible for supporting the program in every way.

The last reading for the program will take place today at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Capitol. Kerry Howley, a graduate student in the Nonfiction Writing Program, will read with Susan Lohafer, a professor in the program. One requirement of Word Painter is that students who are awarded the title get the opportunity to read with a faculty member.

Hamilton is disappointed that the program will be temporarily discontinued.

“I understand it — I mean, you can’t do everything,” he said. “The flood was devastating. It’s bad, because [the program] puts good young writers in the company of good art, and that’s a nice mix. I understand that you can’t just keep on doing things because you’d like to.”

Howley, who was selected for the honor, believes the program will one day be able to regain its former purpose.

“It’s a small program, but the people behind it are really dedicated to the idea,” she said. “It definitely lacks something with the museum not being there … I do think it will rise from the ashes, but it might be just a little hard to sustain right now.”

Fisher said that Word Painter’s suspension is due to the museum’s wanting to direct its funds toward finding a permanent location. Once this task is completed, he has high hopes that Word Painter will be revived.

“Once we regain our footing, the intention is to re-establish the program,” he said.

The museum only recently decided to suspend the program, despite the lack of a main facility, for approximately 23 months.

“We had already made commitments to the authors who were participating,” Fisher said. “So we wanted to honor those commitments.”

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