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West of Lake Michigan, a Culture Center, a Woodland Pattern

by David Lee on Jul 25, 2019
West of Lake Michigan, a Culture Center, a Woodland Pattern

Did you know that Milwaukee is home to a nationally - and internationally - recognized book center with the state’s largest collection of small press poetry and selections by Native American writers, and that its over 300 annual programs in the arts, from readings and literary education programs, to films, concerts, and murals, draws over 17,000 people every year from Milwaukee, the state, and throughout the nation, thus making it a neighborhood anchor in the business corridor connecting Harambee and Riverwest?

I most certainly didn’t until I met Laura Solomon and Jenny Gropp, the co-executive directors of Woodland Pattern in Riverwest, earlier today at Fuel Cafe. 

It seems like day after day, I’m learning about more and more organizations in our city like Woodland Pattern that are doing incredible and inspiring things for our city. I am just so delighted to have the opportunity to be able to share their work.  

Woodland Pattern’s goals are to promote a lifetime practice of reading and writing, to provide a forum and resource center for writers/artists in our region, and to increase and diversify the audience for contemporary literature through innovative approaches to multi-arts programming.

I was particularly inspired when they talked about their Summer Poetry Camps for kids and its effects on children, who through the program, began to heal from some significant life traumas through poetry.  

This makes sense. Poetry helps us to express ourselves in a way that pure language itself is poorly equipped to do and this power gives unresolved emotions and hurt the words and meaning needed to be thought about, considered, and most importantly, seen.

With all that is unsaid and misunderstood in our increasingly polarized world, poetry and literature may be the necessary salve to bring us together and build understanding between people and communities. Maybe this is why the number of adults reading poetry in the United States has reached its highest rate in 15 years, with young adults making up the fastest growing group increasing from 8.7% of 18-24 year olds in 2012 to 17.5% in 2017, according to The National Endowment for the Arts. 

As a book center and arts center, the role Woodland Pattern plays as a cultural convener to build bridges and understanding, and to bring together Riverwest and Harambee, greater Milwaukee, and the nation around literature and poetry is so powerful.

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