National Steinbeck Center (Salinas, CA)

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A man speaks at a podium, arms outstreched.  The National Steinbeck Center.

Lawson Fusao Inada, the 2005-06 Steinbeck Chair, at the press conference launching the 10,000 Poems Project.  Photo by Richard Green

The National Steinbeck Center (NSC), founded in 1977 in author John Steinbeck's hometown of Salinas, California, is a memorial to the writer, but also a focal point for activities in education, history, and the arts within the city. Besides holding the country's largest collection of Steinbeck archives, the center also provides many public programs on the arts and educational programs for students. In addition, NSC developed -- in partnership with Hartnell College; Salinas Public Library; the Western Stage; and Partners for Peace, a program focusing on prevention of violence by youth -- the Steinbeck Chair, a community artist-in-residency program.

In FY 2005, the National Steinbeck Center received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $20,000 to support 2005/06 artist-in-residence for the Steinbeck Chair, Japanese-American poet Lawson Fusao Inada. Inada, an American Book Award winner and two-time recipient of NEA Literature Fellowships, has written extensively about his internment camp experience in California in the 1940s.

Many activities are planned for Inada's residency. He launched his residency at the "Mirrors of Diversity" conference at Hartnell College in October 2005, participated in a week of activities celebrating Steinbeck's birthday in February 2006, and was the featured speaker at the Steinbeck Festival in August.  Inada also is presenting readings, lectures, and writing workshops to area middle and high schools.

As part of his residency, Inada will oversee the 10,000 Poems Project, a community participation project to collect 10,000 poems during the 2005/06 academic year from community members of all backgrounds, reflecting the cultural heritage of the Salinas Valley and lives of its residents. The goal is to encourage writing and the poetic voice within each member of the community.