Magnitude and Bond: A Field Study on Black Literary Arts Service Organizations

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We are excited to announce a Cave Canem and Ithaka S+R research collaboration funded by The Wallace Foundation! Ithaka S+R is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to designing and evaluating projects that make higher education, scholarship, and cultural collections more accessible to the general public. 

Our project, “Magnitude and Bond: A Field Study on Black Literary Arts Service Organizations,” will explore the organizational needs, strategies, and models that enable Black literary organizations in the United States to thrive despite adverse socioeconomic conditions. By doing so, we can tell the story of how Cave Canem and similar organizations have been instrumental in shifting the American literary and cultural landscapes and amplifying voices of the African Diaspora. 

On this occasion, Cave Canem’s Executive Director Lisa Willis offered the following words,

“Black poets and literary arts organizations have made significant contributions to the American and global cultural landscapes. Since Emancipation, communities of Black poets and writers have organized to nurture and support each other and our practices, often without the institutional support offered to other artistic disciplines and we continue to be a vital part of the arts ecosystem. Cave Canem is excited to delve into our research to understand what has made our community so resilient, and to share our findings on what is required to ensure Black literary arts service organizations survive and thrive well into the future.”

Our project will primarily focus on organizational structures, networks, funding models, and engagement strategies that foster inclusivity and empowerment. To achieve this, we will analyze and assess the strategies and tactics used by literary organizations of color through a combination of desk research, a series of in-depth interviews, and institutional data gathering.

Cave Canem Fellows Dr. Herman Beavers (1996, 1997, 1998) and Dr. Shelagh Patterson  (2002, 2003, 2005) will serve as advisors to the study. In addition, we will engage the leadership of Furious Flower, Hurston/Wright Foundation, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, and The Watering Hole to provide insight and expertise rooted in our decades-long engagement with the Black literary arts community.

Ithaka S+R and Cave Canem will produce a narrative report and sustainability framework, and hold a webinar presenting our findings in the winter of 2024.