For 17 years the Black Earth Institute has provided art that gives voice to hope and better ways of living together. Patricia Monaghan, my late wife, and I founded BEI in 2004 to have art focused on social justice, centering protecting the earth, and a broadly defined inclusive spirituality. We did this in response to concerning and negative developments in government and society. We needed something different that supports artists creating this alternative. Now we have done this through our fellows, their work, and our About Place Journal. More, we have created a community even broader than the fellowship itself.
We wanted art that both sees the threats and paints pictures that provide support and sustenance and at the same time identifying the source of such threats. We began then by reaching out to her friends and contacts who might join in a fellowship to do just this. The fellowship was set for 3 years, highlighted by a 4-day retreat in October at Brigitrest, our land in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. In between, we supported each other’s work and began our journal, where each issue was edited by a then-current fellow.
Shortly before Patricia’s death, we decided to strengthen the fellowship. We went through a broad application process and then after accepting 6 fellows for the 3-year term, we offered an annual $1000.00 stipend for an agreed upon project; a $1000.00 stipend for editing an issue of the journal along with 2 supported assistant editors. This resulted in wonderful projects and an increasingly recognized About Place Journal.
We have had 36 active and emeritus fellows and support from 7 scholar advisors. We have been unable to hold our annual retreat in person these last 2 years. This was one reason we did not recruit a new group and asked the current group to stay on for a year. We now plan on an in-person meeting at Brigit Rest in the spring for all fellows and scholars. We will begin the process of selecting a new group of fellows for the 2022-2025 period and plan for an in-person retreat in October. We provide travel support for retreats.
About Place Journal has fulfilled the mission of BEI with its content and reach. The titles of the last few issues tell the tale: Practices of Hope; Works of Resistance, Resilience; and Geographies of Justice. The most recent When We Are Lost/How We Are Found has many essays, often with art or photos, poetry and performance and art displays that inform, support, give inspirations and often direction. We are an on-line biannual. Issues after one year receive 10-13,000 views on that issue’s artists’ pages with many thousands more on earlier issue’s artists. We had a series of readings of contributors to three recent issues that had a total of over 1000 views.
Current fellows’ projects continue to impress and influence. Books, essays, performances, art quilt placements and editing the journal are all part of BEI’s work. Two projects displayed here include Puro Chicanx, Writers of the 21st Century developed by Pam Uschuk, and a quilt that is part of a series by Jacqueline Johnson. Four of our current and emeritus fellows were nominated for Pushcart Prizes this year. These include Alexis Lathem, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Claudia F. Saleeby Savage, and Lauren Camp.
I won’t list the social and political threats we face; you know them. BEI is showing a different way to building a community that creates hope and strengthens all of us to create a better world. We depend entirely on individual donations to continue this important work and we ask for your help. Your tax-deductible donation can be sent to Black Earth Institute, PO box 424, Black Earth, WI, 53515 or to Donate Here.