PITTSFIELD -- American literary giants with ties to Pittsfield are the inspiration behind the city's literature on wheels.
The local Office of Cultural Development has received a $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to design mobile "pop-up" writers' studios, each based on the careers of Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes. All five mid-19th century authors lived and/or produced work in Pittsfield.
The NEA award will be matched by in-kind services and money from Pittsfield, Word X Word Festival, the Berkshire Historical Society and other local funding sources.
In addition to the studios, the two-year grant will fund stipends for a writers' residency program, as well as Word X Word public programming associated with the project.
The studios will serve as a backdrop for up to five people, each paired with a studio, writing new poems, short stories and other literary pieces. The project, titled "In Motion: Pittsfield" is intended to bring literature to life, according to city Cultural Development Director Jen Glockner.
"It's along the same lines as the ‘Big Read,' " she said, referring to another NEA-funded activity. In recent years, Pittsfield participated in "Big Read" by encouraging residents to read a pre-selected classic or contemporary book that was brought to life on stage, such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 2008.
Glockner noted a number of details are still being worked out such as where the studios will be deployed and how the public will interact with the writers in residence.
The literature on wheels is the brainchild of Pittsfield native Tessa Kelly, an architect living in New Haven, Conn., who will spend the next year creating the mobile writers' studios.
"We'll take the essence of what inspired each author and incorporate it into the design," said the alum from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. "The design depends on how much time the writers will spend in each studio and how much livable space they need."
"In Motion: Pittsfield" is an extension of "Project Preservation and the Small American City" a two-year collaboration of Pittsfield, Word X Word, Berkshire Historical Society and Kelly which looks at the city through a combination of architecture and the spoken or written word.
In June 2012, Kelly displayed architectural models of how Pittsfield's future can be seen through the past, such as creating a viewing tower from an old factory smokestack.
Last August, Word X Word held the Pittsfield Architecture Tour in which a team of slam poets partnered with Kelly to match certain moods of poetry with corresponding buildings and spaces in Pittsfield's history.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.