Asheville Wordfest, Recipient of the 2010 Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities

The Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities honors outstanding, imaginative, and significant work that reflects, affirms, and promotes the mission and vision of the North Carolina Humanities Council. The award celebrates substantial involvement by a project sponsor or individual in inspiring and developing activities in the public humanities that invite active collaboration by a wide range of community partners.

Humanities Council staff and trustees are honored to present the inaugural Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities to “Asheville Wordfest” of Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN). An annual three-day poetry festival that began in 2008, “Asheville Wordfest” celebrates diversity by bringing together poets across cultural, aesthetic, physical, and racial boundaries. Festival events include readings by internationally renowned poets, open microphones for local residents, discussions, workshops, and presentations broadcast live throughout the world by streaming Internet coverage. “Asheville Wordfest,” directed by Laura Hope-Gill, has become one of the most important poetry festivals in the United States. In 2010, over 1,200 people attended festival events in Asheville and over 1,800 throughout fourteen countries tuned in via the Internet.

“Asheville Wordfest” participants have included The Flying Words Project (a deaf poetry group); refugee poets who have been subjected to terror and torture; poets with serious developmental disabilities; and poets of color, different sexual orientations, and different world-views. The sponsor, under the continuing direction of Hope-Gill, is already making plans for additional funders to make multi-year commitments so that the annual poetry festival continues well beyond the initial Humanities Council grants and support.