Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey gives a reading

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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Art and writing will combine today in an event filled with different media of artistic expression.

At 6:30 p.m. today, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey will read from her book Native Guard in the Old Capitol Museum. During the reading, guests will also be surrounded by more than 150 high-school students' artwork created in response to Trethewey's poetry.

The free event is presented by the Derek Project, an program for high-school students that challenges the boundaries and goals of art by giving workshops combining different media, such as literature and art.

Amie Ohlmann, a doctoral student in language, literacy and culture, started the project and named it after her brother, who was killed in a car accident when he was 17.

"That's part of the reason that I wanted to work with high-school artists, because he was an inspiring artist," she said. "And I wanted to fuse two things that he loved — and that's art and writing."

Ohlmann said she was very impressed with the students' work this year. The piece is about remembrance, so some students created meaningful pieces about people in their lives who they have lost, and others created work looking at the issues raised in the text, including bigotry and violence.

"It's really great to see the different levels of connections that the students had with the writing," Ohlmann said.

The event includes drawings, paintings, and stained-glass works, and at the end of the night dancers, spoken-word artists, visual artists, and creative writers will perform a presentation in response to Natasha Trethewey's work.

"You're seeing young people at the beginning of their artistic journey, and then you're seeing people like Natasha Trethewey, who is a very established poet," Ohlmann said. "So I think it's, hopefully, an inspirational night for everyone."

— by Julia Jessen

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