By Lynn Norusis
While on a driving tour of the U.K. and Ireland in 2011, June Forte was taken by the monuments and recognition of writers. “Why don’t we do that?” she thought. Forte sees the nation and the state’s focus on business and education—specifically STEM—but questions who is going to interpret everything?
Always in the back of her mind, Forte decided the time had come to recognize Prince William County writers, and in 2013 she approached the County’s Art Council proposing the idea of a poet laureate. It was approved immediately. Since the announcement for submissions in mid-February the response from the public has “besieged” Forte’s inbox. Funding has come through in droves as well, namely through Tackett’s Mill providing space in the new concepting of the shopping center to bring in the arts
“[The purpose of this program] is not to put the poet up on a pedestal, but to get poetry out into the community and have it valued and accessible across the economic and education population diversities,” says Forte, the chair of the Poet Laureate steering committee, member of Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club and communications teacher at Northern Virginia Community College.
“The poet laureate, and hopefully future laureates, are serving a larger role for the county,” says Sheyna Burt, chair of the arts council. “We see the program as a larger tie between the arts, community and business development.” Knowing the county has a reputation as a bedroom community, Burt says, the program will let residents know they don’t have to go far to find art.
“We want to raise the reputation of the county, and economic development was a large part.”As part of the nomination packet, which is due May 10, applicants are tasked with proposing a community project that would bolster the cultural scene in the county. “If this is successful it really will have a dominion effect,” adds Forte.