FAWC Workshops: A Place for Inspiration, Artistic Community, and the Gift of Time

For nearly fifty years Provincetown has been home to the Fine Arts Work Center, one of the country’s most renowned sites for promoting the work of new and emerging artists.. Not only does the center offer seven-month fellowships and long-term residencies for writers and visual artists, it also offers some 90 week-long workshops, featuring some nationally known writers and artists as workshop leaders.

To inform our readers about this exceptional program, we spoke with Kelle Groom, the Summer Program Director, about the wonderful opportunities for our audience of poets.

1). How did the Fine Arts Work Center begin:

The Fine Arts Work Center was founded in 1968 by a group of large-hearted artists, writers, and patrons including Robert Motherwell, Stanley Kunitz, Hudson D. Walker, among others who envisioned a place in Provincetown, the country’s most enduring art colony, where artists and writers could live and work together in the early phases of their careers. The founders believed that the best catalyst for artistic growth is space and time while surrounded by like-minded peers. So began the Work Center’s esteemed Fellowship Program. Each year in early October, twenty emerging writers and artists arrive on this great spit of sand with its stunning isolation and beauty to pursue their creative work over a seven-month residency.  

In 1995, the Work Center enlarged its vision by starting the Summer Workshop Program, assembling renowned faculty to teach rigorous open-enrollment workshops in writing and visual arts. Since its inception, the Summer Program has attracted thousands of participants, many of whom return year after year to Provincetown’s historic art colony to continue to develop their craft.

Building on a tradition of creative excellence, the Work Center in 2011 launched 24PearlStreet, an innovative year-round online writing program led by nationally recognized poets and writers. 24PearlStreet lets students focus on their work wherever they are, whenever they want. Additionally, throughout the year, the Work Center’s active public events programming brings nationally recognized artists and writers to Provincetown for lectures, readings, and exhibitions – all free and open to the public.

2). How long has the FAWC been offering Summer Workshops?

In 1995, the Summer Workshop Program was established, serving over 500 students on-site annually.

3). How many workshops are offered during the summer? How many are devoted to poetry? And the others?

The Work Center’s Summer Program (June 12 – August 26, 2016) offers nearly 90 weeklong workshops in creative writing and visual arts taught by extraordinary faculty. The program includes workshops in poetry, fiction, memoir, essays, graphic novel, songwriting, screenwriting, young adult fiction, painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, multi-media, performance art, and filmmaking/video.

This summer, the Work Center offers 25 poetry workshops with renowned faculty, and a weeklong Poetry Festival (August 7-12). Opening keynote will be by Richard Blanco. During the Festival week, workshops will be offered by Richard Blanco, Natalie Diaz, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Ada Limón, Gregory Pardlo, and Robert Pinsky. Cross-genre workshops include painting, printmaking, and songwriting with eminent artists Richard Baker and Daniel Heyman, and singer songwriter Patty Larkin. There will be concerts by Patty Larkin, as well as PoemJazz featuring Robert Pinsky, Laurence Hobgood, and Stan Strickland. The week closes on Saturday with an open-level workshop finale on poetry and music taught by Robert Pinsky. Tickets to the special performance events are free to participating students, and available for purchase by the public, including the option to purchase a “Poet’s Pass” for all three events.

As with all summer workshop weeks, the Work Center campus will be alive nightly with free writer and artist talks, as well as the Thursday evening Student Open Studios and Readings.

The 2016 Summer Program Poetry Faculty includes David Baker, Jill Bialosky, Richard Blanco, Elizabeth Bradfield, Sophie Cabot Black, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Martha Collins, Natalie Diaz, Nick Flynn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Marie Howe, Kirun Kapur, Ada Limón, Fred Marchant, Gail Mazur, Sarah Messer, John Murillo, Eileen Myles, Gregory Pardlo, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Martha Rhodes, Alan Shapiro, and Peter Jay Shippy. 

Poets who will be teaching memoir/nonfiction workshops this summer include Fanny Howe, Michael Klein, Richard McCann, and Brian Turner.

Full information and the online catalog is available here:

fawc.org/summer

4). How many workshops occur each week?

For the eleven weeks of the summer program, we offer 6-8 workshops every week.

5). How many poets are in each workshop?

There is a maximum of 10 students in each workshop.

6). What other activities will be occurring this summer at the FAWC?

The Fine Arts Work Center Summer Program provides free public programming including nearly 100 Readings, Artist Talks and Exhibitions that serve thousands every summer.

Each year, the Fine Arts Work Center also hosts a number of signature events and celebrations reuniting Fellow alumni and a community of art patrons invested in creative engagement.

ANNUAL NEW YORK CITY BENEFIT

This elegant exhibition reception raises important funds for the Fine Arts Work Center’s esteemed Fellowship program and recognizes the achievements of artists and writers associated with the Work Center.  This year’s honored guest was Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Fine Arts Work Center Fellow (1980-81) Yusef Komunyakaa.  Yusef serves as the current New York State Poet Laureate.  The event was held at Jack Shainman Gallery in NYC. Past honored guests include Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham, acclaimed poet Marie Howe, award-winning artist Jack Pierson and groundbreaking director, actor, and writer André Gregory.

ANNUAL SPRING BOSTON BENEFIT

Each spring ACME Fine Art in Boston hosts a benefit cocktail reception for the Work Center.  This year’s May 19th event is titled PROVINCETOWN VOICES.  A centerpiece of the event is an exclusive exhibition preview of Lester Johnson in Provincetown.  The benefit also honors distinguished author and former Fine Arts Work Center Writing Chair Roger Skillings, and celebrates the release of his new book of stories, Summer’s End. Partial proceeds from the sale of art are shared with the Work Center. Distinguished guests have included poets Nick Flynn, Robert Pinsky, and John Murillo, as well as Pulitzer Prize-Winning author Paul Harding and esteemed artist Pat de Groot. Tickets: $75-$1,000

PROVINCETOWN SUMMER AWARDS CELEBRATION

This sell-out gala event celebrates writers, artists and philanthropists for their distinguished service to arts and letters. On Saturday, July 9 the Work Center will honor two superlative artists:  poet/novelist Eileen Myles and playwright/actor James Lecesne.  Both are admired and cherished faculty of the Fine Arts Work Center Summer Workshop Program and also well known for their deep commitment to and support for LGBTQ causes.  Previous Honorees include: Daniel Mullin, Elizabeth McCracken, Robert DeNiro, Sr., Robert DeNiro, Jr., Ann Patchett, Governor Deval Patrick, Tony Kushner, Berta Walker, Louise Walker Davy, Hatty Walker Fitts, Michael Cunningham, John Dowd, Mary Oliver, Anne Packard. Tickets:  $350-$10,000

40TH ANNUAL ART AUCTION, PROVINCETOWN
FEATURED ARTIST VARUJAN BOGHOSIAN

This standing-room-only live auction, now in its 40th year, is a signature event of the Work Center.  This year’s August 20th event salutes Varujan Boghosian, a revered Provincetown artist, and celebrates his 90th birthday!  This festive lively event features 100 lots of one-of-a-kind art, destination packages, and gift cards. Tickets: $35 - $150

7). In the past what have been some of the results of the workshops?

The Fine Arts Work Center Summer Workshops are always a transformative experience. I’ve included comments from some of our participants:

  • The people I meet at the writing workshops are an integral part of the experience, and I have never failed to meet interesting, kind, nurturing people. I love the community experience and the student housing. NO TV and no air conditioning make it a zen-like abode. I get energy from the writers, poets and the artists. I love the Thursday open studio night and the barbecue. The faculty are supportive and inspirational in unexpected ways too. The community experience was wonderful. It was my first time there and I felt welcomed and at home. Everything was comfortable and I felt safe to express myself creatively. Everyone at the work center was very welcoming and supportive. I enjoyed the atmosphere at FAWC. The morning coffee and goodies in the lounge area were a terrific way to start the day. You could chat with people who were doing writing workshops. The community at FAWC is sensational. Attendance at FAWC being my first foray into an intensive arts workshop/community, I am necessarily biased however at no time did I feel that there could have been more generous, caring, dedicated staff and this is saying little to nothing of the fellow students who I met. It was a lovely group. I really like the BBQ on the Sunday night and the readings and lectures. I find that when I am at FAWC, I am able to dip in and out of social events and also spend time working and thinking independently which works very well for me. I loved the community.  Have met people with whom I think I will be friends for life. Like the readings and the visual arts presentations. They add so much.

  • My week at the Fine Arts Work Center was incredible, wonderful, magical, creative and thought provoking. At the FAWC I was able to experiment, to write scenes and try things out on the page that might be utter failures or misses because there, in Provincetown, the FAWC does this amazing thing of providing a relaxed and inclusive space for writers (and artists) to experiment, learn and feel safe about what they’re doing. Diana Champa

  • I like to feel that the spirit of Kunitz is still at work here--that leaders and participants genuinely care about one another rather than just personal reputation and networking and that art and writing are honored at every level.

  • It's a wonderful community of thought-provoking experiences, talented participants, staff and faculty who come together to make FAWC the unique place we think of with fondness. I found other faculty and participants really encouraging of my new work this summer - in addition to the support I had from my class - it is inspiring to hear, view and revel in the new work, emerging work, polished work or most vulnerable work that is coming out of our peers.  My instructor's prompts, encouragement and both in-class and out-of-class assignments helped me to generate more new work than I've ever generated at a workshop before.

  • The intensive week-long schedule is perfect for quick bonding with classmates and fosters a writing productivity that I can’t seem to reach in my daily life. The Fine Arts Center is a special place. There are only few times in my life that I am aware when I am making friends and memories that will last the entirety of my life. My fiction workshop this summer was one of those times. Jay Sefton

  • The group I shared my workshop week with was welcoming and nurturing; allowing me a safe space where I could share my work with people who genuinely cared about helping it be better. I am amazed at the close-knit community that was created in such a short time. Maria Teresa Tristan

  • I was energized, excited, and engaged with the work I produced that week, and that momentum only continued when I got back home. Chelsea Biondolillo

  • The workshop, combined with the gorgeous setting and constant opportunities to hear artist presentations and author readings, all made for a wonderful experience. Nora Bonner

  • The workshop model was incredibly refreshing, helpful and supportive. I left that week knowing where I needed to go next with my project, and feeling good about where I was. I'd come back in a heartbeat.  Tessa Fontaine

  • I was reminded that the creation of art is a journey and one to be taken together, as much as we must go alone. The Fine Arts Work Center Summer Program is a hidden gem and a space dedicated to what is most important and most true in our lives. It is a week I won’t soon forget. Kate Stoltzfus

8. What is your position at FAWC and what does it entail?

I am the Summer Program Director for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. I direct the 11-week series of weeklong workshops in visual arts and creative writing, held each summer, as well as residencies for returning former Fellows and visiting artists and writers, and collaborative residencies, conducted during the “shoulder months” of May and September.  I recruit faculty, plan courses, process registrations, oversee scholarships, implement program activities, coordinate work and living spaces for program participants, supervise program staff, and work with staff marketing and business personnel.
 

Kelle Groom’s four poetry collections are Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily, Five Kingdoms, and the forthcoming, Spill (Anhinga Press). Her memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster) is a Barnes & Noble Discover selection, New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry. A 2014 NEA Fellow, Groom is MFA faculty at Sierra Nevada College, and Director of the Summer Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.