Freeman is first poet laureate for all the Heights
Heights Arts is proud to announce the appointment of Siaara Freeman as the eleventh poet laureate of Cleveland Heights—and now, also, University Heights.
The new laureate’s two-year term and official duties will begin in April—National Poetry Month.
Freeman joins a long line of past Cleveland Heights poets laureate, the most recent of whom was 2022 Academy of American Poets Fellow Ray McNiece.
“I am incredibly honored to be chosen to continue in a legacy carved by such brilliant and generous poets,” said Freeman. “It is a privilege to sit amongst personal heroes and close friends who embraced the opportunity to serve the community.”
With Freeman’s appointment comes a new partnership between Heights Arts and University Heights—an evolution that will change the title from Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate to Heights Poet Laureate.
Said Heights Arts Executive Director Rachel Bernstein, “The Heights Poet Laureate program is the longest-running laureateship in the state and has been conferred through Heights Arts since its inception. Not only are we thrilled to welcome Siaara Freeman to lead us into Heights Arts’ 25th anniversary in 2025, we are equally excited about our new partnership with University Heights to expand this position to the Greater Heights area—something I have been hoping to do since I became director.
"Cleveland Heights and University Heights share a school system and a library system, and we are grateful for [University Heights] Mayor Brennan’s enthusiasm in supporting another cultural asset in the poet laureate, which will expand civic engagement through the arts.”
Brennan said, “As we continue to grapple with the many challenges in today’s post-pandemic world, poetry can help us reconnect and heal. University Heights is excited to support the Heights Poet Laureate, and we look forward to working with her at our community events.”
Cleveland Heights Mayor Seren commented on what the laureateship represents in a city with arguably the highest population of artists and arts professionals in the region. “Poetry grounds us in our shared humanity in times of celebration and sorrow, and as ‘home to the arts’ Cleveland Heights recognizes poetry’s significance through this laureateship,” he said. “I look forward to working with Ms. Freeman to give her art a broader platform in our community.”
Freeman will be welcomed officially at CH City Hall on April 17, and at UH City Hall on May 1.
Her first public events as the new laureate will occur at Heights Arts’ Ekphrastacy – Artists Talk and Poets Respond event on April 20, 7 p.m., and at Heights Arts' community celebration of laureates past and present on May 4, 7 p.m., at the Grog Shop.
Currently a teaching artist for the Center for Arts Inspired Learning, Freeman has spent recent years with Cleveland Public Theatre (Catapult Fellow 2021-22); as Watering Hole Manuscript Fellow (2020); tangerine chapbook fellow (2018); and Poetry Foundation Incubator Fellow (2018); and she is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.
Her first collection of poetry, Urbanshee, was released in August 2022. Her poems have appeared in many publications, and she has performed at poetry festivals, colleges, and universities, both locally and internationally.
In conjunction with the Picturing Motherhood exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2022, she made a five-minute video that aired on the museum’s website.
It was clear to the Heights Writes Community Team, whose members select the new laureate, that Freeman would transcend the ordinary through her writing, performances, and work with young people. Said team member Annie Holden, “On paper, Freeman is deeply impressive. In person, she has a level of energy and dynamism that electrifies the space she inhabits.”
Tom Masaveg is the Heights Arts programs manager.