One thing that I love about working for a nonprofit are the opportunities for collaboration—with other types of arts, other organizations, new communities. There is no possible end in sight for projects bred of new ideas when there are a wealth of people who want to help make it happen. The big news this week is that the Loft Literary Center (the nonprofit where I work) has received a grant from the United Arts Fund and Traveler’s Arts and Diversity Committee that will help them to further collaborate with the Minnesota Literacy Council, an organization established in 1972 that to this day provides free adult basic education classes for immigrants, refugees, and lifelong Minnesotans.
The Loft and the MLC have been working together for several years already for MLC’s annual Journeys: An Anthology of Adult Student Writing release readings. Journeys is a collection of writing from MLC adult learners that has been published annually—in one form or another—for the past 23 years, and for the last 12 has typically contained work from about 500-700 students each year. The annual launch event celebrates not only the student writing contained in the book but also the volunteers that make it all happen, by giving out awards in different categories including Outstanding Volunteers, Volunteer Service Awards, and Community Partnership Awards. Students are further celebrated with the Outstanding Learner Award, which may lead to the receipt of one of four Burke Scholarships, made possible by the Burke Family Fund, which the student may use to reach other educational goals. Each year around 50 participants are recognized, including honorable mentions.
In addition to working together on the Journeys award event, the two organizations have also been able to collaborate here and there over the years by bringing teaching artists from the Loft to the five MLC sites for creative writing workshops. Looking toward the future, the Loft will use their newly awarded grant to cultivate creative writing residencies at MLC sites, as well as an Inroads Mentorship program for eight emerging immigrant or refugee writers who will work with a mentor who is also an immigrant, refugee, or first generation citizen, and also to provide continued support to their partnership with the MLC for their annual Journeys event.
Of the grant, Bao Phi, Associate Program Director at the Loft, and mastermind behind their Equilibrium spoken word series—a program that earlier this year won a major Surdna grant—said, “We love to work with MLC, they do such important work. This new grant will allow us to deepen our relationship with them and the many communities they serve, as well as continuing our dedication to providing creative writing opportunities to under-served communities.”
Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Collaborative.