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Summit Held For Growing Literary Arts Scene

Over the past five years, Baltimore’s literary arts community has significantly grown due to the formation of organizations, networking among writers, influx of new writers, creation of several reading series, increased media attention through publicity and blogs, and a new energy in regard to literary art.

As a response to this growth, the Maryland State Arts Council and CityLit Project co-hosted the first-ever Literary Arts Summit on Saturday, June 13, 2009, at the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations. The meeting convened literary organizations from the Baltimore metropolitan area to discuss common challenges and explore possible solutions while promoting a collaborative spirit. 

“We invited established organizations that serve writers and readers, some of which are lead by literary artists, as opposed to individual writers because our objective really is to develop these organizations as businesses,” said CityLit Project executive director Gregg Wilhelm.  “Many of these organizations already have 501(c)(3) status, but need help with strategic planning, marketing, human resources, and fund-raising.”

Organizations in attendance represented publishers, bookstore owners, reading series hosts, librarians, media, and journal editors. The summit began with introductions and general conversation about how the organizations were faring. Everyone was eager to hear about what was going on with other organizations, especially given the recession, and all were willing to offer their help and resources.

After discussing various topics and establishing goals for the day, attendees divided into small groups to discuss specific topics in more detail.  Topping the list of challenges expressed by attendees were publicity, funding, human resources, audience development, and a lack of centralized resources that would help in the creation, scheduling, and presentation of programs.

Some suggested solutions included more partnerships with bookstores, schools, and libraries toward establishing venues as well as cultivating a corps of volunteers and interns.  Arts organizations—especially those lead by artists who may not possess refined administrative skills—should turn to the for-profit sector for advice on business practices and financial management.  A strategic balance of Internet, social networking, and conventional tools should be utilized to reach the largest number of constituents.  Attendees also expressed a desire for a “headquarters” where several organizations could share office space, perhaps a situation that would include space for events and programs.

Another area of interest concerned outreach and education to youth.  A proactive approach toward working with schools and libraries was suggested, as was providing youth-oriented programs at adult events.  Surveys, co-op advertising, and networking were other strategies toward audience development, marketing, and partnering.
After presenting these discussions to the group as a whole, everyone in attendance left excited about what is happening in the literary community and energized to tackle their organization’s challenges.

Similar Literary Arts Summits are scheduled for July 18 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda for D.C.-area organizations and August 22 at the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing for western Maryland organizations.  The next Baltimore Metro Literary Arts Summit is Saturday November 7.  For additional information, please contact MSAC Program Director Christine Stewart.

Meanwhile, a Google Group has been started to keep communication open between organizations and as a place to share resources.  If you represent a literary arts organization in the metro area (small press, on-line or print journal, literary blog, reading series, etc.), please join by going to Google Groups and searching “Baltimore Metro Literary Arts” or follow this link:

Attendees at the June 13 Literary Arts Summit included:

Rosemary Klein – Maryland State Poetry and Literary Society
Julie Fisher –
Barbara Diehl – Baltimore Review
Christophe Casamassima – Furniture Press
Reggie Harris – Pratt Library
Andrea Lewis – Maryland Humanities Council
Andy Rubin – Cyclops
Stephen Reichert – Smartish Pace
Paul Lagasse – Maryland Writers’ Association, Baltimore Chapter
Dave Rosenthal – The Sun
Nancy Johnston – The Sun
Jen Michalski – JMWW and 510 Reading Series
Chris Toll – Upward Spiral Reading Series
Adam Robinson – Publishing Genius Press
Justin Sirois – Narrow House
Carla Du Pree –HoCoPoLitSo
Linda Joy Burke- Little Patuxent Review
Fernando Quijano III - For Crying Out Loud
Emily Mullin – Goucher Writers’ Forum
Gregg Wilhelm – CityLit Project
Christine Stewart – Maryland State Arts Council

A complete set of notes from the meeting can be downloaded here:
Click here to download PDF

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