Thursday, June 14, 2012

Feeding Community: What Undergrads Taught Me This Quarter

After treating my body to its first Thai massage across town yesterday, I meandered home in the sunshine, passing an organic/local-vore bakery, road-side piles of garbage and old furniture left by hordes of exiting undergrads, a couple of left-over students tanning themselves in their front yard while giving their dog beer, and, just as I crested our hill, something I'd never seen before: hummingbird roadkill (!)

This rich and zany diversity often marks a typical day in Athens, Ohio. As a writer, most of the time I am incredibly grateful to live in a place that continually surprises me--even if it happens to also be home to this year's "#1 party school."

I had a tough quarter of teaching undergrads this spring. And I mean tough. Mostly blank, angry stares and deliberately mediocre work. I began to doubt this town, the power of words, the point of a college education. And while I hope at least a few of my English students will take something with them from their required composition course, I know that others were quite happy to get their C+ and just move on.

Here's what saved my sanity this spring, not to mention a belief that there are people out there--even undergrads, perhaps especially undergrads--who can change the world for the better: an Arts for Ohio grant project called "Feeding Community" that I co-wrote/directed with my amazing artist neighbor, Danielle.

Our project paired student papermaking artists with literary artists and had one goal in mind: tell the local food movement story through collaboration.

Over 135 hours of student work later, here's some proof of the end results:

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