Creative writers find inspiration at Stonewall exhibit

English student Rachel Cruz tours the exhibition “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall," inside the Phebe Conley Art Gallery at Fresno State.

Photo: English student Rachel Cruz tours the exhibition “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” inside the Phebe Conley Art Gallery at Fresno State.

By Jefferson Beavers, communication specialist, Department of English

Nine of Prof. Brynn Saito’s creative writing students enjoyed an impromptu afternoon of awe, history, and inspiration last week when they visited the acclaimed Stonewall Uprising art exhibit, on display inside Fresno State’s Phebe Conley Art Gallery through Oct. 31.


Saito, an assistant professor of English, invited students in her English 165 undergraduate class, Craft and Technique in Creative Writing, to participate in an ekphrastic poetry exercise. The Poetry Foundation defines ekphrastic poetry as the vivid description of a scene or a work of art: “Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the ‘action’ of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.” Saito said her primary goal with the exercise is “to show students the many ways into the creative process — wandering around a museum, working with objects, working with art, working with sound — just exploring how many ways there are to begin to write their poetry and prose.”

Students in two additional creative writing classes — Saito’s English 261 graduate poetry workshop, and Dr. Tim Skeen’s English 41 undergraduate poetry workshop — also participated in the exercise. Their writing, directly inspired by the Stonewall art, will be on display at the exhibition at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 when the Center for Creativity and the Arts hosts an evening of poetry and music in the Conley Art Courtyard, featuring the poet Faylita Hicks and musician Dr. Benjamin Boone.

Black and white headshots of Benjamin Boone and Faylita Hicks with their names spelled out in text on a dark blue textured background.

Event admission is free; parking costs $5 in recommended lot P5. The university’s COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place, including an online health screening and required face coverings.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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