Carlow to highlight Pittsburgh-based International Poetry Forum archive with help from National Grant

PITTSBURGH – Selected as one of 24 institutions, Carlow University is a recipient of the “Humanities Research for the Public Good” grant from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). The $10,000 award will support an interdisciplinary undergraduate research project centered on access to the International Poetry Forum (IPF) archives. The year-long effort will culminate in a final exhibition in the University Art Gallery and a series of public programs designed and implemented in collaboration with the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh. The public programming is an opportunity for Carlow students to further engage with the Pittsburgh community.

This grant is offered as part of a nationwide initiative to promote student research and public engagement at private colleges and universities. A hallmark of this endeavor is to share the wealth of library, archival and museum collections maintained by these institutions.

At Carlow, “The Power of Voice and the Agency of Citizenship: The International Poetry Forum Collection and Social Change” will be a student-led exhibition and public programming project driven by the Department of Art, Communication and English, the Social Justice Institutes and Grace Library, which will feature the IPF archive. The public exhibition for the collection is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2022. This collection contains video recordings, audio recordings, newspapers, posters and other ephemera highlighting the rich, local history of the IPF, which ran from 1966 to 2009 in Pittsburgh.

“This is such an exciting project that draws on our rich heritage and links aspects of the liberal arts with social change and advocacy,” Matt Gordley, Dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences at Carlow University said. “It serves as a terrific example of interdisciplinary work across art, creative writing, poetry, English, history and social justice. It also engages students in funded experiential learning, research and public sharing of results with a community partner.”

The IPF, led by Dr. Samuel Hazo, invited speakers from around the globe to read poetry in a spoken word format, celebrating the power and potential of the art form. Historical participants, which included Anne Sexton, Kurt Vonnegut, Lucille Clifton, Octavio Paz and many more, were challenging, thought-providing and radical speakers who pushed social change to reexamine what it meant to be an engaged citizen. Moved to an offsite location during a campus renovation, the archive has been out of the public eye for some time.

“Pittsburgh has a strong history of activism within the labor, civil rights and church communities,” said Sigrid King, Director of the English program at Carlow University. “Today, the Pittsburgh area continues to have a vibrant and diverse community of groups working together on issues of social justice. Because the IPF archive includes many of the writers who were themselves activists, our local community will greatly benefit from access to these voices and their insights.”

Four Carlow students were handpicked to have a paid, leading role in the project, which runs through the 2021-2022 academic year. Caitlin McDonough ’21, KJ Miller ’21, Sarah Smilowitz ’22 and Kaitlyn Stamm ’22 were each selected for their robust writing and research skills, appropriate coursework, and strong interest in issues of social justice.

This collaboration between Carlow students and faculty is poised to honor and preserve Pittsburgh’s past while also examining the still-relevant social justice issues.

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