2012-10-25 / News

Rhode Island seeking new state poet

Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee joined U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and members of Rhode Island’s arts community at the State House recently to sign a proclamation declaring October as the official Arts & Humanities Month in the state of Rhode Island.

Chafee also used the occasion to announce the launch of the nomination process for the next state poet of Rhode Island. Current state poet Lisa Starr of Block Island has reached the end of her five-year term.

“The arts and humanities are central to both the economic and cultural life of our state,” Chafee said. “Rhode Island and our capital city of Providence have a disproportionately large creative output that generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and supports thousands of jobs. In fact, a recent study by Americans for the Arts found that the economic impact of the arts in the city of Providence alone was greater than that of a number of states, such as Delaware, Hawaii, South Dakota and New Hampshire, all of which have larger populations. The arts are a strong point in our economy and a source of pride for the people of our state.”

Chafee added that Arts & Humanities Month is the perfect time to announce the start of the nomination process for Rhode Island’s next state poet.

“Lisa Starr has served our state well and I am personally grateful for the wonderful poem she read at my inauguration as governor,” Chafee said. “I know that Lisa will be glad not to have to travel from Block Island to the mainland quite as frequently, but on behalf of the people of our state I am grateful for her commitment over the past five years. I am excited to launch the search process for our next state poet and look forward to working with the arts council to review interested candidates.”

All qualified nominees must be a working poet and a resident of Rhode Island. Candidates must have had no fewer than two collections of poetry published in book form, and must agree to maintain residency in Rhode Island during their term if selected. Any Rhode Island citizen may submit a nomination for state poet. Self-nominations will also be accepted, providing that the candidate meets all the eligibility requirements listed above. The deadline for applying is Friday, Nov. 2.

The position of Rhode Island state poet was established by law in 1989, and is traditionally held by an artist who represents the highest achievement in poetry in our state. While no specific duties are mentioned in the legislation, the state poet serves as the principal advocate for poetry in Rhode Island. Previous state poets are Michael Harper (1989-94) and C.D. Wright (1994-99) and Thomas Chandler (1999-2006). Chandler served until he was replaced by Starr in 2006.

The New England Foundation for the Arts says that in 2009, direct and indirect spending by the nonprofit arts totaled $673 million and supported nearly 8,000 jobs. In 2012, Americans for the Arts put arts employment at more than 12,000 people.

“Rhode Island’s galleries, concert halls, libraries and artists’ studios enrich our communities and contribute to our state’s economy,” said Whitehouse. “Arts & Humanities Month is a time for Rhode Islanders to celebrate our cultural treasures, and to affirm our support for the education of our children and the creativity of our citizens.”

Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, thanked Chafee for recognizing the valuable role the arts and humanities play in the State. “We know that the arts contribute to the quality of life we enjoy here in Rhode Island,” said Rosenbaum. “We appreciate what Gov. Chafee does to acknowledge its role in supporting education and helping with our state’s economic recovery.”

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