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Celebrating Midwestern Creativity Through the Creativity News Desk

A person stands in front of a group of people outside, speaking and gesturing to an open area in the tall grass behind them.
Photo Credit: Adam Nantz
Jean-Pierre Mot talks about his work Pop-Up Remnants at the 4Ground Land Art Biennial Launch Party in 2022.

Introducing the Creativity News Desk, a new Arts Midwest program that commissions stories and gives grants for projects that amplify the power of arts and creativity in the Midwest.

Over the last few months, you may have noticed more stories on the Arts Midwest website. From food ways and skateboarding to reused historic buildings and rural museums, we are celebrating the many aspects of Midwestern creativity.

This work has been part of a storytelling initiative that we’re excited to give a name: the Creativity News Desk.

This new Arts Midwest program amplifies stories about Midwestern creativity, celebrating the beauty and depth of this region and encouraging new narratives about the Midwest. It’s supported by Builders Initiative.  

Through the Creativity News Desk, we’re commissioning stories and giving grants for projects that amplify the power of arts and creativity in the Midwest.

We’re seeking out stories that go beyond traditional arts coverage and celebrate creativity in all its forms. We’re especially focused on stories of, by, and for Native communities, rural communities, and communities of color.

And we’re inviting you to join us! Whether you’re making content as a writer, photographer, videographer, illustrator, podcaster – or reading it over a cup of warm coffee or glass of cold beer – you can help us celebrate Midwestern creativity.

Because like the best potlucks, there’s always room at this table.

How can I get involved?

  1. 1

    Pitch us a story or video project

    You can pitch us story ideas any time of the year. We commission feature stories every month and consider special projects every quarter. Learn more on our collaboration page.

  2. 2

    Republish our work

    All stories on the Creativity News Desk are free to republish. If you run a media outlet or newsletter, and see something you’d like to amplify, just follow our republishing guidelines.

  3. 3

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Interested in reading getting updates on Midwestern creativity? Subscribe to the Arts Midwest Newsletter by scrolling down to the footer of the website. Click the “News + Stories” box to get our latest stories in your inbox every two weeks.

  4. 4

    Talk to us about partnership

    Are you a media entity whose work aligns with the Creativity News Desk? We’d love to hear from you. Shoot us a line at [email protected]

A note from the Managing Editor

When I joined the Arts Midwest team in June of 2022, my colleague, Alana Horton, mentioned a book she was reading—Midwest Futures by Phil Christman (2020, Belt Publishing). I decided to pick it up as I dove deeper into our new storytelling initiative, its values, and the work we’re trying to do through it.

I’ve been a Midwesterner for a little over six years, living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As an immigrant from South Asia with a very diverse upbringing, I’ve always been an outsider-insider everywhere I’ve lived. This “identity” has helped me develop, I believe, a distinct perspective on the world around me. But it’s been hard for me to truly define my Midwestern-ness, if any, to my parents, who live close to 8,000 miles away in northeast India. So, as I was reading Christman’s book, I was struck by how eloquently and perfectly he captured some of the perceived aspects of the Midwest and the historical and cultural weight they carry.

The book came about as he tried to answer a series of questions from his Texas-born wife during their move to Michigan—essentially trying to define the characteristics of the Midwest and Midwestern identity. He mentions the cliches of “bad weather, hard work, humble people” falling short as an answer. “I knew these were inadequate,” he writes.

I’ve been thinking about it since: what does it mean to be a Midwesterner? No one has really asked me to define it (and I’m not sure it’s that easy), but our hope through this storytelling work at Arts Midwest is that we can take part in the expansive exploration of that question. And a little more specifically—what is Midwestern creativity?

Our work is guided by a simple but steadfast editorial frame and a set of guiding principles that feel true to our team, folks deeply invested in lifting up the creativity that exists in our communities. In our commissioning and partnership work, we seek and embrace the insight of people reporting from their community, because we know how love, knowledge, and relationships positively impact this storytelling work.

In his book, Christman remarks, “The Midwest is, in fact, constantly written about, often in a way that weirdly disclaims the possibility that it has ever been written about before.” We hope that our stories hold space for wonderment while firmly reiterating how Midwestern creativity has always existed and presents a world of possibilities over and over again.

So, here is my invitation to you to be a part of amplifying these stories: read slowly and share widely. I’d be happy to hear from you if you’d like to learn more about our not-so-traditional Creativity News Desk.

With gratitude,
Angela Zonunpari