Heights Arts Appoints Eleventh Poet Laureate
HEIGHTS ARTS APPOINTS 11TH HEIGHTS POET LAUREATE
Heights Arts proudly presents the Heights’ eleventh Poet Laureate —Siaara Freeman. She begins her two-year term in April, joining a long line of celebrated laureates, the most recent of whom was 2022 Academy of American Poets Fellow Ray McNiece. The new laureate’s official duties will begin in April (National Poetry Month), at Heights Arts’ popular Ekphrastacy—Artists Talk and Poets Respond series.
About Siaara Freeman
Currently a teaching artist for the Center for Arts Inspired Learning, Freeman has a wide-ranging, much-heralded foundation in writing and performing arts. She has spent recent years with Cleveland Public Theatre (Catapult Fellow 2021-22); as Watering Hole Manuscript Fellow (2020); Tangerine Chapbook Fellow (2018); Poetry Foundation Incubator Fellow (2018); and she is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her first collection of poetry, Urbanshee, was released in August 2022. Her poems have appeared in many publications including BOAAT, Tinderbox, Josephine Quarterly, and The Offing, which describes Freeman as “an avid reader, a reliable nerd, a poet, a performer, and the friendly neighborhood hope dealer.”
Freeman has performed at poetry festivals, colleges, and universities both locally and internationally. Norway, Canada, and Costa Rica have hosted her, as have educational institutions including Oberlin, Ohio State, Allegheny College, Michigan State, Louisiana State, and Penn State. In conjunction with the Picturing Motherhood exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2022, she made a five-minute “commercial” spoken-word video that aired on the museum’s website to promote the show.
Of her hero, Toni Morrison, in a piece for Cleveland magazine in 2019 Freeman writes, “She (Morrison) was transcendent, yet undeniably human. She had no need to rely on stereotypes or tropes. She knew blackness, women, Ohio, magic, herself, and she used that knowledge and her boundless imagination to give us worlds where her characters existed, but we could as well.” It was clear to the members of the Heights Writes Community Team whose members select the new laureate every two years, that Freeman herself would transcend the ordinary through her poetry writing, performances, and work with young people. Team member Annie Holden speaks for the Team. “On paper, Freeman is deeply impressive. In person, she has a level of energy and dynamism that electrifies the space she inhabits.”
Cleveland Heights – Home to the Arts
Freeman joins a long line of celebrated past poet laureates. Says Freeman about her appointment, “I am incredibly honored to be chosen to continue in a legacy carved by such brilliant and generous poets. It is a privilege to sit amongst personal heroes and close friends who embraced the opportunity to serve the community.”
Cleveland Heights Mayor Seren honors the laureateship and what it represents in a city with arguably the biggest population of artists and arts professionals in the region. “Poetry grounds us in our shared humanity in times of celebration and sorrow, and as “home to the arts” Cleveland Heights recognizes poetry’s significance through this laureateship. I look forward to working with Ms. Freeman to give her art a broader platform in our community.”
A New Partnership with University Heights
With the naming of the new laureate comes a new partnership between Heights Arts and University Heights, an evolution that will change the title from “Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate” to simply “Heights Poet Laureate”. Heights Arts’ executive director Rachel Bernstein shares her thoughts about Freeman’s upcoming tenure. “The Heights Poet Laureate program is the longest-running laureateship in the state and has been conferred through Heights Arts since our inception in 2000. Not only are we thrilled to welcome Siaara Freeman as the next laureate who will lead us into our twenty-fifth anniversary in 2025, we are equally excited about our new partnership with University Heights to expand this position to the greater Heights area—something I have been hoping to do since I became director. Cleveland Heights and University Heights share a school system and a library system, and we are grateful for Mayor Brennan’s enthusiasm in supporting another cultural asset in the Poet Laureate, which will expand civic engagement through the arts. I look forward to Freeman sharing her inspiring words and presence with a new community.”
University Heights Mayor Brennan shares Bernstein’s enthusiasm. “As we continue to grapple with the many challenges in today’s post-pandemic world, poetry can help us reconnect and heal. University Heights is excited to support the Heights Poet Laureate, and we look forward to working with her at our community events.”
Inaugural and Upcoming Events
The new laureate will be welcomed officially by Cleveland Heights on April 17, 2023 at Cleveland Heights City Hall, and at University Heights City Hall on May 1, 2023.
Her first public events will occur at Heights Arts’ Ekphrastacy – Artists Talk and Poets Respond event on April 20th at 7pm, and at a Heights Arts “Community Celebration of Laureates Past and Present” on May 4th at 7pm at the Grog Shop.