LEI builds community in time of isolation

Storefront display from the "Transformations . . . " Creative Community Challenge.

In late March 2020, Lake Erie Ink (LEI) was presented with a problem: After almost a decade of providing creative expression opportunities across Greater Cleveland, a global pandemic disrupted in-person programs.

In response, LEI facilitated a new program series—Creative Community Challenges—to address the increased need for community-building and creative expression during a time of social isolation. LEI called for and gathered submissions from throughout the community, and published them in bound anthologies. To further the program's reach, LEI also worked with the Coventry Village Special Improvement District to organize a pop-up public art display, in an empty storefront window, of the writing and visual art submitted as part of the project.

Although LEI is typically youth-oriented, organizers opened the program to the general community, receiving submissions from young people as well as from community members who had not previously been aware of LEI’s existence. Participants ranged in age from 9 to 91.

The first submission drive, which ran from June to August 2020, was themed "One Summer Day . . . ". This thematic prompt was selected to encourage reflection and be accessible to a diverse population. During the first round, more than 50 individuals submitted their creative work.

Through Creative Community Challenges, LEI created a unique community bond. Commenting on being part of the project, one participant noted, “I'm trying hard to speak from an authentic perspective. I just love words, the sounds they make, and the imagery and emotion they conjure. This is all new. I've been spending decades doing other things. To be in the anthology is thrilling.”

The current challenge theme—a prompt created by LEI's teen editorial board—aims to tackle a question on many people’s minds: "What’s on the other side?" With fear and uncertainty leading the way into 2021, LEI hopes to promote honest reflection on what kind of impact our present will have on our future.

To participate in LEI's current Creative Community Challenge, respond to the theme “What’s on the Other Side?” with a piece of original work (writing, photography, painting, etc.) and share it online, or deliver it in person or by mail to LEI's office (2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 44118). The Web address to submit online is https://form.jotform.com/210035079119146. If you experience any problems in submitting, or have any questions, send an e-mail to creativecommunitychallenge@gmail.com, or call 216-320-4757.

Submissions will be open until Feb. 19.

Eli Millette

Eli Millette works as the communications and outreach director at Lake Erie Ink, and lives in Cleveland Heights. 

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 12:14 PM, 01.29.2021