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A spirit that is not afraid

Museum’s poetry series extends its reach through online platforms

The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts on Feb. 7, 2019.
The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts on Feb. 7, 2019.

The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art offers poetry readings from renowned poets through the Third Thursday Poetry Series. 

According to Charlotte Hendrix, senior communications and marketing specialist at the museum, the series is in its ninth year but has only been hosted by the museum for six years, starting in 2014. 

The poetry series is offered most months during the spring and fall semesters. 

Hendrix said the museum partners with Auburn University’s Department of English as a way to further the museum’s collaboration with campus entities. The series is partly funded by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Traditionally, the series was held in person, but in accordance with University guidelines, the museum transitioned the series to a virtual format, Hendrix said. The Third Thursday Poetry Series can be streamed on Facebook Live and YouTube.

“The virtual poetry reading offers us an opportunity not only to share the work of these artists with people in our community, but we’re able to welcome folks viewing from anywhere through this platform,” Hendrix said. “There was someone who commented ‘Hi from Michigan.’ We’re really able to extend the reach of this program and all our programmatic offerings from what we’ve been able to do digitally through the pandemic.”

Christy Barlow, school and community programs senior manager at the museum, said that the online platform has been beneficial because it allows viewers to ask speakers direct questions. 

Hendrix said that the museum is considering keeping an online element to the Third Thursday Poetry Series even when in-person readings resume because of the ability to include those outside the Auburn community. 

The first reading for the spring 2021 series was presented Jan. 28 by award winning poet Tim Seibles. 

The February speaker, Lila Quintero Weaver, is a graphic novel memoirist rather than a poet, Barlow said. Weaver illustrated and wrote a memoir about her experience growing up in Alabama in the ‘60s as an immigrant from Argentina. The novel also details some of the historic points of the civil rights movement she and her family witnessed. 

In addition to Weaver reading at the Third Thursday Poetry Series, she also has an exhibition based on her darkroom drawings at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art that opened in December. 

Barlow said that Weaver presenting a graphic novel is interesting because it connects both visual and literary art. 

“This is an evolution of the reading series in that we continue to align with our mission to present visual art as well as the literary arts,” Hendrix said. 

The Third Thursday Poetry Series will not have a reading in March. The series will end for the spring 2021 academic season on April 15 with poet Laura Grey Street. 

Hendrix said that the poetry series is an excellent opportunity for students and aspiring writers to ask established artists questions. 

The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is currently closed to add new exhibitions but will reopen Feb. 9.

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