Giving Voice features national talents

Giving Voice festival of the arts opened at John Brown University this morning. Over 200 high school students plan to visit the school to participate in writing, drama, photography, printmaking and screen-printing workshops.

Today’s events are for JBU students and the public. Friday’s workshops are for the busloads of high school students coming to visit. Workers in yellow shirts will litter the quad tomorrow and direct JBU’s visitors to their workshop destinations.

Jake Stratman, a professor in the English Department, has directed Giving Voice since 2012 and looks forward to this year’s events.

“Giving Voice has been going on, I’d say, around 10 years,” Stratman said. “My really favorite thing is bringing those 200 high school students on campus and showing them what creativity looks like. I was a high school teacher and we didn’t really have anything like that.”

Giving Voice is completely open to the public.

“I’m inviting anyone who is interested in creativity,” Stratman said. “Those Thursday events are for anyone who’s interested in what creativity looks like in the world of faith.”

Many students travel significant distances to attend Giving Voice events.

“We are not selective in who we ask,” Stratman said. “All types of schools and all types of kids, and I’m just super excited to see it grow.”

Carolyn Claussen, a senior at JBU, has attended five Giving Voice workshops since her senior year of high school.

“The best experience I have had concerning Giving Voice was my first time attending as a senior in high school,” Claussen said. “It was so exciting for me to get the chance to sit in a college classroom and listen to published authors talk about their profession and how they got there.”

“It was instrumental in my decision to become an English major,” Claussen said.

Giving Voice workshops are not just for English, art and musically minded people, though.

“My advice for anyone who’s thinking about going to Giving Voice is to just go,” Claussen said. “Do it.”

“Don’t be afraid to sit in on an event that you wouldn’t expect to enjoy,” Claussen said. “Ask questions. It’s not often one gets the chance to meet with professional writers, poets and musicians in such an opening and welcoming environment.”

Giving Voice also has more to offer than just workshops. JBU students can come hear guest poet Brett Foster speak and guest musician Josh Harmony play in chapel. There will be a talkback Q and A for anyone who has questions for the Giving Voice guests.

After chapel there will be a luncheon for the guest writers and English majors at 11:30. Foster, along with guest writers Jessie van Eerden and Shannon Polson will read their own work at 6 p.m. tonight in the Simmons Great Hall. Harmony will be performing a free concert in the Cathedral at 8 p.m.