CONGRATULATIONS JANUARY GRANT RECIPIENT, NANCY COOK!
Click here to learn about our other January grant recipient, Steve Kost.
Congratulations to Nancy Cook on a successful grant application!
Excerpts from Nancy's application:
I've been a writer since I could hold a pencil. A social practice artist, I see myself as a literary witness, whose job is to expose and explore the realities of ordinary people's lives through the dual lenses of historical events and social institutions. For more than twenty years I've attempted to integrate creative writing, teaching, parenting, and justice work in communities. Throughout this time, I've taught creative writing classes in settings that range from prisons, youth facilities, and community centers to college campuses, graduate schools, and professional conferences. I've published widely in literary and social practice journals, reflecting my presence in these different worlds. My writing explores themes of truth, justice, voice, and story ownership for the disempowered and underrepresented. Additionally, throughout my adult life, I've been actively engaged with writers' communities and have published continuously. One significant component of my community work has been the creation and ongoing management of the "Witness Project," a series of free monthly writing workshops in an urban, under-resourced community. Recognition for my work has come from many sources, including the Lillian E. Smith writer-in-service award, a state Artists' Initiative Grant, a regional arts grant, and multiple individual writing prizes.
When my daughter graduated from high school in 2012, I made the transition to full-time writer and teaching artist. My first major writing project came out of a month-long residency in the fall of 2015 on the grounds of a former state mental hospital in western Minnesota. The residency was part of an initiative to preserve, develop, and honor this historic, late-19th century landmark. As a resident artist, in addition to pursuing my own writing project, I ran community writing workshops, hosted a reading, and produced a mini-anthology. I've just completed a book of short fiction based on news items about the hospital's early residents. The stories in this series, like much of my work, seek to explore the veiled truths of ordinary people's lives and expose the often baffling and complex systemic injustices that impact them.
Meanwhile, a new book-writing project was set in motion by a National Parks Arts Foundation residency. I spent a month living in a farmhouse located on the Civil War battlegrounds in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was a literal borderlands between slave and free states, and it was also the site of what many believe to be the turning point of the Civil War. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address marked the transition to revised conceptualizations of nationhood and liberty. An important focus of the book is on how and why that transition remains incomplete. Again, justice themes and submerged truths are at the core of this new work. My project also presents new challenges, as I attempt to blend historical fact and current events and, stylistically, reflect the pace and emotional intensity of the experience through a hybrid of fiction, poetry, and art.
I'm evolving both as an artist and as a social justice practitioner. With my newest book project, I'm incorporating visual art: drawings, collage, pastels, and watercolors. One reason I've chosen to approach the book in this way is that I'm better able to enter into my characters, many of whom are visually oriented. My hope is that readers will also benefit from engaging with the characters in this way. Novels in the Civil War period often had illustrators, so the art also adds something of historical fidelity.
With respect to social practice evolution, in my public engagement work, I'm trying to expand into more public art projects. I'm finding that literary projects in the public arts are significantly enhanced by the addition of a visual arts component. While this might be accomplished through a collaboration, that isn't always practicable.
To hurry my evolution along, I'd like to get some instruction in painting and drawing. I'm fortunate to live in a place where talented artists share their skills in classes for neophytes like me. I'd use Integrity grant funds to enroll in a beginners' art class and purchase materials for this expansion of my work.
Integrity: Arts and Cultural Association is pleased to assist in funding Nancy's proposal! We wish her the best in her future artistic endeavors.