Local author and award-winning poet Kathleen Bonanno will soon be able to make her literary arts center a reality. Out of over 1,700 applicants, Bonanno joins the inaugural winners of the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia, a three-year, $9-million initiative launched last year. The 36 grant recipients will share $2.7 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

An unthinkable personal tragedy led to Bonanno's acclaimed book of poetry, Slamming Open the Door. With the country-wide response to her work, Bonanno found faith in the power of writing: "it connects us to one another, humanizes us, and reminds of our commonality."

Now, with a $50,000 grant from the Knight Arts Challenge, Bonanno wants to bring the uniting power of words to the Mt. Airy area with Musehouse: A Center for the Literary Arts. "Our literary center will be unique, I hope, in its effectiveness at serving beginning, emerging and established writers of all ages," Bonanno says. With a focus on writers from the northwest section of Philadelphia, planned workshops include poetry and fiction writing.

The goal of serving all ages and interests is clear, with an emerging program for a kids' literary magazine workshop that will publish a "Musehouse Journal Junior", language arts tutoring and SAT prep for middle and high-school students, and legacy writing classes for senior citizens who want to offer their life stories to others. Bonanno also wants to offer courses in memoir and nature writing as well as spoken word, and is actively seeking experienced writers and educators to get the program underway. Mt. Airy residents can also look forward to monthly poetry and fiction readings and book signings.

While she has come a long way in bringing Musehouse to life, Bonanno continues to work on her next challenge: raising the funds that are required to match her grant. She's on the lookout for corporate or individual sponsors, and particularly hopes that donors in the Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy neighborhoods will find the center a worthwhile community investment. "It's going to take a village to make a Musehouse!" she says. "We each have a creative impulse worth nurturing, a vivid imagination and a story worth telling."


for NewsWorks