Thanks to a $150,000 planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, James Madison University’s College of Arts and Letters and the JMU Libraries will be able to learn, grow and deepen their partnership, according to a press release.

Through a joint “Flowerings Project,” centered around the digital future of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the collaborators will develop and disseminate a new model for integrated library and educational technologies support of a living, academic center for the arts with digital archives, research and performance components, according to a press release.

“This partnership is a giant step toward making the resources of the Furious Flower archive accessible to a global community of poetry lovers,” Joanne Gabbin, Furious Flower director, said in the press release. “We are excited to begin this work.”

JMU’s Furious Flower Poetry Center is the world’s oldest academic center devoted solely to African American poetry, the press release says. It just celebrated its 25th anniversary and the publication of a new anthology of poetry and criticism edited by Gabbin and assistant director Lauren Alleyne — “Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry” — which will launch with a special event open to the public on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Hall of Presidents, the press release says.

The press release says that this year of grant-funded work is primarily designed for deep transformation within the libraries, focused on strengthening its digital services, but encompassing equity and inclusion, space considerations, teaching and learning innovations, sustainability and more. It is meant to lead to more holistic and uplifting support for Furious Flower and all of the libraries’ faculty projects and partners.

“We’re so grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this opportunity,” Bethany Nowviskie, dean of libraries, said in the press release. “Through a year-long period of shared learning and planning, we will strive to make the Libraries’ support relationships — both with Furious Flower and other campus collaborators — more coherent, inspiring, and impactful.”

The Flowerings Project is also designed to position the Furious Flower Poetry Center, now housed within JMU’s College of Arts and Letters, for continued international visibility and growth, while raising broad awareness of the challenges facing similar centers and programs operating within predominantly white institutions, the press release says.

Participants in the Mellon planning grant will be assisted in their work by a diverse group of invited, external experts and consultants, who will visit JMU periodically through the course of the year.

The grant also supports travel and learning for JMU Libraries and Furious Flower-affiliated faculty and staff.

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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