Perfect Pairings: Creative Forces Combine in the WITS Broadsides Tour

By Laura Burgher, Writers in the Schools & Broadsides Project Intern

I placed the final broadside up on the bookstand and took a step back. Patrons at Seattle Public Library’s Northgate Branch were already starting to show interest, craning their necks to take in the twenty-two framed artworks I just set atop the bookshelves, their arms weighed down by stacks of slippery, plastic-coated books. I overheard someone ask, “Are these for sale?”

It seemed a fitting question. To see these broadsides is to want to be close to them. To read these poems over and over revealed the way the range of artistry–from the intricate and delicate to the loud and bold– played so perfectly with the words on the page. There is no mistaking it; these broadsides contain a rich and magnetic power unique to their perfect alignments.

Now, looking at the complete set, out in the world, I thought about all the different collaborations that brought the collection here. The two elements that come together in any broadside are the visual and written arts. In this case, many more layers were embedded into the artworks’ surfaces. Students at Seattle Children’s Hospital worked with WITS Writers-in-Residence Ann Teplick and Sierra Nelson in the 2014/15 school year, to bring their stories, voices, hopes and senses of humor to the page. Artists at the School of Visual Concepts then dedicated their time, talent, and visions to create the designs. They let their inspiration grow out of the poems that spoke to them the most, designing the colors, images, and fonts to perfectly compliment each. The generous funders, themselves inspired by the resulting broadsides, came together to support the tour around Seattle. To see the collection now is to perceive the art of all these experiences contained within it.

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WITS Broadsides at the Seattle Public Library, Northgate Branch

The collaborations continued, when I first met with one of the librarians at the Northgate Branch to discuss the exhibition. She returned with unbounded enthusiasm and yet another opportunity for fusion– an idea to combine the exhibition with an interactive poetry activity for children. I immediately agreed. Regardless of your age, to look at the broadsides is to be inspired. To want to sit down and write a poem, to create a picture, to make art.

By now, the broadsides have moved on to the Seattle Public Library’s Ballard Branch and will continue traveling throughout the city over the next year, to the list of venues at the end of this post. I encourage you to visit them, and if you have children, bring them along. Each tells an individual story that has a unique and stirring effect on the viewer. And, don’t worry if you don’t have a chance to see them all at once. Go back to take another look. Let them inspire your thoughts to combine in unexpected ways, too.

2014/15 WITS Broadsides Collection Traveling Exhibition Schedule

December 2015: Seattle Public Library, Ballard Branch
January 2016: Cupcake Royale, Capitol Hill
February 2016: Seattle Public Library, Southwest Branch
March 2016: Jack Straw Cultural Center, University District
April 2016: Tin Umbrella Coffee, Columbia City
May 2016: Two Tartes Cafe, Georgetown
July-September 2016: Seattle Art Museum Community Corridor

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WITS Broadsides at the Seattle Public Library Ballard Branch
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