CLEVELAND, Ohio - Books are not just meant to be read alone. And art is not just meant for museums.
Those are two of the driving factors of an ongoing collaboration between the Anisfield Wolf Book Awards/Cleveland Foundation, Land Studio, Twelve Literary Arts and the RTA. Just in time for Book Week 2018, the InterUrban Art & Culture Connector has unveiled 25 new art works on the RTA Red line that are inspired by themes from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners.
The Anisfield-Wolf awards, established in 1935, are given to books that confront racism, examine diversity and expand society’s understanding of class and justice. They are the only national juried prize for such literature. This year’s winners, Shane McCrae, N. Scott Momaday, Jesmyn Ward and Kevin Young, will be honored at a reception on Thursday, Sept. 27, at Playhouse Square.
It’s sold out, but those interested can still watch it streaming at anisfield-wolf.org. Even better, though, they can experience the works as they come alive in Land’s RTA illustrations, as well as Twelve Literary Arts interpretations of the works which members will perform at the Tower City Rapid Transit Station on Sept. 26 and 27 from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
It’s one of the highlights of the Cleveland Book Week 2018, which takes place in venues around town Sept. 22 to 29 and includes appearances from authors Derrick Barnes, Judy Blume and Gordon James, as well as the Great Lakes Black Authors Expo & Writers.
See https://www.clevelandfoundation.org/news/book-week/ for a full schedule. But while most of those events require patrons to leave their house and get tickets for events, the InterUrban and Twelve Literary Arts projects are bringing Book Week, and Anisfield Wolf to the people, literally: on 25 Red Line cars and in the busy Tower City station.
“Back in 2014, the city wanted to beautify the Red Line from the airport to Tower City ahead of the RNC,” says Land project manager Joe Lanzilotta “So we met with the city and RTA and did some touring of the Red Line and came up with the idea to integrate art into the Red Line.” “Cleveland Foundation and Anisfield-Wolf became involved when we thought, ‘public art would be a great way to tell the Anisfield Wolf story.’”
Works represented include “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” by Langston Hughes; “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” by Isabel Wilkerson; “The Fortunes,” by Peter Ho Davies; “Far From the Tree,” by Andrew Solomon; and “The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle,” by Lillian Faderman.
Daniel Gray-Kontar, Executive Artistic Director of Twelve Literary and Performative Arts Incubator, says his group of teem and adult poets have studied many of the Anisfield Wolf Awards.
“Part of the process is we get together and read the works, then talk about what we want to perform and share. “
This is their second year interpreting Anisfield -Wolf works for the public.
“The reaction really varied last year,” says Kontar. “And that’s understandable. These works are very provocative, about race and America’s difficulty dealing with race. Some people were offended, others loved them. Before we went out, we talked about how to deal with people, and how to present the works in a way that was provocative but not overpowering.”
This year, they have incorporated selections from 2018 non-fiction winner Kevin Young's “Bunk.” They’ll also be performing works from Shane McCrae, Isabel Wilkerson, Jesmyn Ward and Harlem renaissance leader Langston Hughes, who spent his formative years in Cleveland, where he attended Central High and established a life-long partnership with Karamu House.
“A lot of these works, they really affect people,” says Kontar. “Many just stop and listen. I will never forget last year the woman who stopped walking, stood and listened to ‘Invisible Man’ and just cried and cried on the platform.”
Art and words are powerful, in books, museums and on the RTA.