Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center to Receive $90,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Nearly a half century ago, sparks from a passing train not only set fire to oil-slicked debris on the Cuyahoga River, which sent flames five-stories high, it ignited the river’s reputation as one of the most polluted in the United States. Since then, clean-up efforts have helped return the river to its natural state, and now visitors will have the opportunity to give it a voice, thanks to a grant awarded to the Wick Poetry Center in Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $2 million in Creativity Connects grants as part of the National Endowment for the Art’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018.  Included in this announcement is a grant of $90,000 to the Wick Poetry Center for River Stanzas: A Collective Dreaming of the Cuyahoga. The Creativity Connects category advances the role of the arts in the nation’s creative ecosystem by supporting projects featuring partnerships between the arts and non-arts sectors.

Kayaks line the shore of the Cuyahoga River in Kent, Ohio, as part of Crooked River Adventures, which is run by the Kent State Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” Ms. Chu says. “Through the work of organizations such as the Wick Poetry Center in Kent, Ohio, National Endowment for the Arts funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”  

With the River Stanzas project, an evolution of the award-winning Traveling Stanzas project, the Wick Poetry Center will examine and give voice to the many ways the river can sustain us creatively and teach us about our connection to the environment and our community.

“In June 2019, our community will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our river’s rebirth,” says David Hassler, director of Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center. “From the crisis of the river burning, we now have the opportunity to celebrate the success through poetry, art, and design, showcase our community’s vibrancy—its riverbanks and bike trails, its hiking paths and streetscapes and rise to the challenge of conveying what we’ve learned to the stewards of the next generation.”

In the summer of 2018, the Wick Poetry Center will conduct a series of intergenerational community forums and conversations around the value of the river in our lives, its history and our shared future. They will be inspired to “dream the river” in its next 50 years.

Throughout the year, in collaboration with the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Akron and Kent Public Schools, Wick Poetry Center’s outreach team will lead field trips and workshops—“river walks” and “river talks”—aiming to bring the river to the city and the people of the city to the river.

With the design firm Each + Every, the Wick Poetry Center will create River Stanzas coloring and activity books and develop digital tools and creative stations for guided creative interaction and reflection in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park visitor center. Visitors will be guided through a simple process to tell their “river story.” These will be curated and included in an interactive, digital traveling exhibit launched in 2019, which will travel nationally with a suite of digital tools so that other communities around the world can give voice to their own environmental issues and history.

For more information about Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center, visit

POSTED: Thursday, June 21, 2018 02:04 PM
UPDATED: Thursday, December 08, 2022 07:57 AM