On the evening of June 4, participants in Drexel University’s Writers Room gathered to celebrate the release of its fifth anthology series at an event organized by Kirsten Kaschock, a published author and Assistant Teaching Professor of English at Drexel.
The series offers a selection of over 100 pieces from students and various other artists throughout the city. Within the quarters of the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, the room quickly filled and became consumed with the oration of the diverse collections.
For the span of over an hour, articles included in this year’s release were shared with the audience open-mic style — variants including free-form, poetry and personal reflections. Writers included in this year’s publication have also had works issued throughout various other venues, including the Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Drexel’s Mandell Theatre.
“That’s the power of the Writers Room — it brings partners and people together, and it is those people and those partners that have made the success of Writers Room so incredible. It is a testament to its members, our community and a very important piece to our university,” remarked Maria Schultheis, Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Writers Room is a literary niche built on the pillars of creative engagement and social justice tucked away in the pocket of MacAlister Hall. The initiative has provided a variety of opportunities for those seeking a welcoming community of writers and creative byways through its First Tuesdays, Third Thursdays, and HOME Symposium outlets.
Originally conceived in 2014, Writers Room has seen particularly tremendous growth in the last year. The symposium of community cooperative living partnered with TD Charitable Foundation with Canon Solutions America to create a two-year research study funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service as well as the Mantua Civic Association.
It has also expanded its ties with other academic parties, including YouthBuild Charter School, Paul Robeson High School, Drexel’s School of Education and The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. The department has also made room for a new Assistant Director, Patrice Worthy, to get involved with its evolving endeavors.
Its coalition with Canon, the co-facilitator of the program, has also seen success within the Canon TRIPOD project, an initiative that fuses photography and literary arts with the greater community. Internal works have since been showcased at Joe Coffee, the Free Library and as of recent, an expansive mural displayed in MacAlister Hall.
“We’re so grateful for everyone who has partnered with us. Canon for making our work visible, for making our writers visible for themselves and each other,” Rachel Wenrick, Founding Director of Writers Room, said.
This year’s Writing Fellow of Writers Room, Lauren Lowe, shared her reflection of the evening’s unfoldings.
“Every year there have been more students and that has been very special — our neighbors come out, and every year we’ve added something. To see the room packed this way is really special — I remember when it was a really small cohort of people, me and one another student, and now we have this big family — it’s always the best day of the year,” Lowe shared.
“It’s crazy to have been here from the beginning until now,” long term participant Jen Jolles shared. “Five years is a long time, and it’s really through Rachel’s stewardship and the hard work of Kristen and Lauren, what they do, that, has made Writers Room what it is. I’m grateful to have been a part of it.”
Other students in attendance also shared uplifting thoughts.
“It was a great experience, hearing all the different sides of Philadelphia. You got to hear about the history of Philadelphia and people’s experiences coming to Philadelphia and finding a new home. Overall, I thought it was a great representation of the city,” Leila Haddad expressed.
Writers Room is currently planning a collaboration with Mural Arts that will begin in July. This fall, the Room will also be co-hosts of the national Conference on Community Writing. Scholars, activists and community organizers will be in attendance, and the theme will hone in on community activism.
The brick and mortar studio space will also continue to keep its doors open for use this summer season.