By Will Schuck
In just nine months, the Sherwood Anderson Project has grown from an idea into a budding reality. Little did anyone know that a single meeting positively would change the course of the “project.”
In February 2001, while on my way to work at 6:30 a.m., I heard a spot on Kent State University’s radio broadcast about the university’s executive development program. I jotted down the phone number while driving in the dark with the hope that someone at Kent State could help me uncover the source of my dilemma: an inability to build public support for the Sherwood Anderson Project. After meeting with Dennis Ulrich, the director of Kent’s executive development program, one word stood out as the key to success: follow-up.
By regularly following up with those who showed an interest in the project, I found that a following naturally formed. In a month, eight people enlisted. We now have 42. But increasing numbers was (and is) not the mission of the group. Increasing awareness of Sherwood Anderson, cultivating an appreciation of his works and spreading knowledge of his life in Ohio was and is its mission. The group then began to focus its efforts in that direction. During this time, another critical relationship was formed. The Lorain County Historical Society agreed that Sherwood Anderson’s presence in Elyria and Cleveland was a little-known fact and something the public needed to know.
In 1999, in the spirit of Sherwood Anderson, I had formed a group for adult writers to bring them together and help them improve their craft. We quickly moved this program under the umbrella of the Sherwood Anderson Project and began “branding” it as our first literary program. The next step was to begin educating the local public about Sherwood Anderson. Thus, with the help of the Lorain County Historical Society, “Sherwood Anderson Day” was born.
In September 2001, Sherwood Anderson Day was held at the Lorain County Historical Society’s Hickories Museum. The museum is just blocks away from the site of Anderson’s Elyria paint factory and his 1906-1913 residence there. The event drew about 40 people and went a long way toward putting Anderson’s name in front of the public. Elyria Mayor Bill Grace even declared September 29, 2001 as Sherwood Anderson Day to commemorate the author’s arrival in Elyria. Mayor Grace also attended the event. The local media, as well, were open to publicizing the event and re-examining Anderson’s life and times in the area. A supportive Sunday editorial in Elyria’s Chronicle-Telegram ran the headline: “Anderson Center Sure Would Be Nice.” It was then that our group realized that “Sherwood Anderson Literary Center” would be a more fitting name for what we proposed to offer the community.
And just what were we proposing? In addition to the adult writers’ group and Sherwood Anderson Day, we would provide a summer writing camp for children, online tutoring, a series of author lectures, an informative web site, an Anderson book discussion group, writing workshops, and classroom presentations on Anderson’s life and works. And the list continues to grow.
The literary center has also become involved in supporting efforts in Clyde, Ohio, to re-establish and refresh Anderson’s reputation there. For instance, the Ohio Bicentennial Commission has approved our proposal for a historical marker in Clyde to commemorate Anderson and his works. Dorcas Harms of Storytown Tours in Clyde successfully gained support from the city. The city will provide $500 toward the cost of the marker and will designate a location for its placement. Others in Clyde have agreed to donate time and services to install and maintain the marker.
With a formal business plan developed and a core of eight committee leaders (including myself), the Sherwood Anderson Literary Center heads into 2002 with a bright future devoted to inspiring enthusiasm for the value of thoughtful reading and writing and promoting understanding of the life and work of Sherwood Anderson.
For details about the literary center and its activities, please visit www.sherwoodanderson.org. To make a financial contribution or to participate as a speaker or attendee at Sherwood Anderson Day 2002, please contact literary center Director Will Schuck at 440-933-0865 or firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: The Sherwood Anderson Literary Center, c/o The Lorain County Historical Society, 509 Washington Ave., Elyria, OH 44035.