In October 2015, Coffee House Press (CHP), an internationally renowned independent book publisher and arts nonprofit based in Minneapolis, was awarded a St. Paul Knights Arts Challenge grant to launch its Coffee Sleeve Conversation project. By producing and distributing coffee cup sleeves featuring the words of St. Paul writers of color, CHP hopes to foster community conversations on race and the arts. While these sleeves will be distributed to several St. Paul coffee shops, Park Square Theatre is also proud to be selected to participate in the Coffee Sleeve Conversation project.
CHP has an established history of community involvement through Books in Action programming, which produced the Coffee Sleeve Conversation project. Books in Action projects came about because CHP “has long recognized that there are many possibilities for reader/writer exchange beyond (and even without) the page. . . . Our vision for the future is one where a publisher is more than a company that packages books. We strive to be a catalyst and connector–between authors and readers, ideas and resources, creativity and community, inspiration and action.” Other innovative Books in Action projects have included Ring Ring Poetry, a poetry installation featuring local poets “broadcasting” poems linked to specific Twin Cities sites; CHP in the Stacks, a library residency program placing writers, artists and readers in public and private collections/libraries to creatively engage with community members; and much more. Be sure to visit coffeehousepress.org to learn more about their publications and programs.
For the Coffee Sleeve Conversation project, poet and activist Tish Jones solicited and selected work from writers of color in St. Paul. The process included an open call for submissions, and the words of 20 writers were printed on approximately 10,000 sleeves. Park Square employee and local writer Ting Ting Cheng is very excited that an excerpt of her poem was chosen as a conversation starter. It reads “May Kuan Yin, / goddess of mercy, / protect / all who / enter here.”
In CHP’s words, “By focusing on local writers of color, the series will point to the depth and excellence of writing from people of color that is already available in the community, and catalyze and enlarge the conversation in diversity, media, activism, and art both locally and nationally.”
Equity, access, public engagement: these are values that CHP live by; these are values that Park Square Theatre shares. Be sure to look out for the coffee sleeves at our Proscenium and Boss stages for the rest of this season.
“Most of what people are hesitant to speak out about is an ugly truth. Art helps make it more appealing.” — Tish Jones in an interview with Intermedia Arts