“Activism in the Archives” Takes Heart Stage at What Cheer Writers Club

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The primary co-working house at What Cheer Writers Club. The membership just lately obtained a $66,000 grant to launch a brand new programming collection titled “Activism in the Archives.”

What Cheer Writers Club, the four-year-old writing membership that makes its house in downtown Providence, is popping the web page, actually, on a brand new chapter in its temporary however energetic historical past as a hub for native creatives.

The membership introduced final week it obtained $66,000 grant from the National Writing Project’s Building a More Perfect Union program. The grant is a part of the American Rescue Plan Act funding for organizations affected by the pandemic and is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Jodie Vinson, program director at What Cheer Writers Club.

According to Jodie Vinson, program director, it’s the primary time the group has obtained a federal grant on this scale. The cash will likely be used to launch a brand new yr of programming geared across the theme “Activism in the Archives.”

“It’s exciting for us. It’s our first major federal grant. We’ve gotten a lot of local support from the city and from [the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts] and the state, but this was exciting to have some funds coming from the NEH,” she says.

The thought behind this system collection, which can kick off June 3, began with a perceived want for extra assets and community-building occasions amongst native writers, she says. When the membership first launched in 2018, it was conceived as a co-working house the place writers, illustrators and different creatives may work communally in an expert setting. Members had entry to the membership’s headquarters, a quiet, artfully embellished suite of workspaces and studying nooks overlooking Westminster Street.

“What we noticed from the beginning was people were congregating in the kitchen and talking to each other and wanted not just quiet, but community,” says Vinson, noting the membership now has greater than 350 members.

The want for group solely elevated throughout the pandemic as members have been compelled into the isolation of solitary work. With the house closed to co-working (it reopened in the summertime of 2021), the membership leaned into programming, internet hosting on-line workshops for members and supporting group initiatives. They hosted the favored Dear Rhode Island letter trade and provided workshops on every thing from writing methods to doing taxes as a freelancer.

“While we started as an organization really built around the physical space, it changed our orientation a little toward really community-focused programming, keeping people connected when we were all feeling isolated,” Vinson says.

This spring, with the assistance of the grant, the group is planning to focus its applications on each the activism of the previous few years in addition to the historical past of social change in Rhode Island. Vinson says many members have been keen on studying extra about learn how to entry historic assets in archives maintained by the Rhode Island Historical Society and different organizations. At the identical time, many have been collaborating in their very own history-making moments by their writing and art work.

“We were interested, and we felt the interest in the community, in exploring that intersection between activism and the arts. Sometimes art is activism, and sometimes activism benefits from artists’ work, but what does that look like? We wanted to explore that idea,” she says.

“We thought, well, what stories in the archives locally around the state are there about activism and social justice in Rhode Island’s history? What are the stories that need to be told and resurfaced and interacted with?” she provides.

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One of the numerous studying nooks at What Cheer Writers Club in Providence.

The first occasion within the collection, scheduled for June 3, is a group dialog for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) creatives on their expertise and inspiration. The occasion will happen within the Liberation Garden at Haus of Glitter, an arts and efficiency group that maintains a residency on the Esek Hopkins House at 97 Admiral St. in Providence.

Later this yr, the collection will proceed with a panel dialog on arts and activism adopted by a presentation by native archivists within the fall on learn how to entry their assets. The collection will culminate subsequent spring with a zine-making workshop (for the uninitiated, a zine is a small, self-published work typically used to advertise new voices or countercultural messages) in addition to a studying and anthology of member zines. What Cheer plans to work with Binch Press and Queer.Archive.Work to publish the anthology.

“We’ll be relying on a partner for that because this will be sort of our first publication out of this organization,” Vinson says.

She provides they stay up for utilizing the grant to advertise the brand new spherical of assets and alternatives for his or her members to come back collectively. The theme of activism, she says, typically intersects with artwork however can also be broad sufficient that members can concentrate on the problems which might be essential to them, whether or not that be social justice, racial fairness, well being care, the surroundings or another matter.

“The archive is just such a rich pool of resources, and these stories from our past can kind of inspire our present moment,” she says. “I know these past couple years, it can feel like we’re all in crisis mode, but if we look to the past and stories of the past, those can be very grounding and they can also offer us guidance for the future.”

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The membership’s headquarters at 160 Westminster St. embrace a podcasting studio.



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