The Northwest Indiana arts community came together at Indiana University Northwest Sept. 29 to celebrate a year of accomplishments, honor the work of student poets and other area artists, and make plans for the future of promotion and support of arts in the region.
The South Shore Arts Summit was hosted by the IU Northwest Center for Regional Excellence and IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland. In addition to professional seminar and networking events organized by the arts council, the day-long event was an awards ceremony honoring poets featured in the collection “Poeticize,” which contains 70 poems selected for publication as part of the Northwest Indiana Regional Juried Poetry Contest, a joint effort between the IU Northwest Center for Regional Excellence and Books, Brushes & Bands for Education, a children’s organization for the visual, literary and musical arts.
Top poems were selected by a jury panel of teachers, professors and graduate students who participated in an anonymous judging process. Winning poets read their works during the awards ceremony Friday afternoon. The awards for Best Middle School Poem and Best Overall Poem went to Elisabeth A. Kindmark of Chesterton Middle School for her amusing yet heartfelt piece entitled “Big Sister Blues.” In the contest’s college undergraduate division, IU Northwest anthropology student Charlotte Noble won for “Inland on the Lake,” a stirring tribute to her father. The award for best elementary poem went to Frank H. Hammond Elementary student Ashley Angotti for her piece entitled “Imagination.” And first place for best high school poem went to Lenna Xiao Ping Peterson of West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School for the poem “The Weaver.”
William Buckley, professor of English at IU Northwest, headed up the contest, and IU Northwest English graduate Mary Nolan edited the book, proceeds from which will go to benefit the IU Center for Regional Excellence Scholarship Fund for Writers, Artists and Photographers. Buckley noted that submissions came in from schools in all seven counties of the Northwest Indiana area, and even from downstate. He said the enthusiasm for the contest among educators was considerable.
“Whenever I go to a school, I have principals and teachers asking me when we’re going to do another one,” said Buckley, who is himself a published poet. “We’re going to do it again in about two years.”
Jennifer Vinovich, special projects director for South Shore Arts, credited Myron P. Nidetz, Arts Consultant for IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland, for helping to heighten interest in the Poeticize contest and other IU Northwest arts initiatives among outlying Northwest Indiana communities. She noted that 98 contest entries came in from the Rensselaer school district in Jasper County.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Myron Nidetz for his part in spreading the word about this,” Vinovich said. “He’s done a lot of traveling and talking to people throughout the region, and it’s really paid off.”
Michelle Golden, president of board chair of Books, Brushes & Bands for Education, said that holding the awards ceremony at IU Northwest gave younger students a chance to gain early exposure to higher education, an experience that may stick with them well into high school. All students whose poems appear in “Poeticize” were invited to attend the program and receive recognition.
“You may have kids here who would have never seen a college campus before. But because they were able to come and receive an award in third grade or whatever, now they’ve been to a college campus, and they may remember that, whereas otherwise they might not have seen one until their junior year in high school,” she said.
South Shore Arts Council representatives graciously thanked IU Northwest and Chancellor Bergland for their support and hospitality in hosting the event, and for supporting the Poeticize contest.
“We’re really happy that IU Northwest was willing to partner with us, because we are a grass-roots organization,” Golden said during a reception following the event.
Bergland, in a brief address, told the audience that IU Northwest is committed to supporting the arts in Northwest Indiana.
“We at IU Northwest care deeply about the arts, and about what the arts mean to you, and about how the arts can help us all in Northwest Indiana to develop a quality of life that we can all be proud of,” Bergland said. “It’s great to see so many people here who are devoted to the arts.”
On Nov. 2 through Nov. 4, IU Northwest will host the international conference “Drawing the Lines: International Perspectives on Urban Renewal Through the Arts.” The event will bring together international experts with local community planners, artists and others to discuss how the arts can contribute to the revitalization of Northwest Indiana communities. To support its efforts in hosting and organizing this event, the Center for Regional Excellence was awarded a Regional Partnership Grant Award of $5,400. It was just one of many area arts and arts-supportive organizations that received grants during the program.
The South Shore Arts Council also presented its Regional Youth Arts Awards at the Sept. 29 event. These cash prizes for artistic endeavors by young people went to St. John resident and jazz vocalist Susan May and Hobart resident Haley Brewster, whose specialty is ballet.
As host of this year’s event, IU Northwest extends congratulations to all award-winners and grant recipients.
For more information about POETICIZE, contact Prof. William Buckley at (219) 980-6570.