UA Poetry Center Executive Director to Travel New RoadsPosted on: June 17, 2013 in Creativity & The Arts
After more than ten years with the UA Poetry Center, Executive Director Gail Browne is taking her own road less traveled.
Browne started her sojourn with the Poetry Center in July 2002, a time when, even though it already had a rich history, it was still housed in small bungalows on Cherry Avenue. But Browne was to change all that. Coming from the Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area with a background in marketing, the arts, and a love for poetry, she was ready to transform the Center into a national nexus for poetry.
“We were just beginning the process of hiring the architect. We had raised a couple million dollars, but things were really starting to take off with the building when I started,” she remembers.
Browne led the capital campaign, design and construction of the Helen S. Schaefer Building – the permanent home of the renowned Poetry Center. The facility received a 2009 Arizona American Institute of Architects Award for Design. Along with the Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the Poets’ House in New York, the UA center is one of only three such high-profile landmark buildings in the nation dedicated to the promotion, dissemination and preservation of poetry.
Proud Past and Present
In April 2013, the Arizona Humanities Council honored Browne with the Juliana Yoder Friend of the Humanities Award. Given to one who makes lasting contributions to the the cultural life of the community and supports and promotes the humanities, the Council could not have found a more fitting honoree.
As she leaves, Browne takes with her a deep satisfaction in having achieved a number of meaningful accomplishments.
“It (the building) had been a dream for so long, I’m proud of our ability to bring that to fruition,” she says. “But I think at the same time I’m also most proud of the community that we’ve helped to nurture and strengthen here at the Poetry Center.”
In the end, the building and the community represent two halves of a single whole; either one would not be as strong today without the other. Although the Center has had active programming since 1960, “the building has grown our community and allowed us to expand our programs,” says Browne. “The services we’ve been able to provide to the UA, Tucson and Southern Arizona are all something I’m very proud of.”
During her tenure, Browne has multiplied the scope and reach of Poetry Center programming, which has presented well over 1,000 poets of national and international acclaim as well as poets rooted in Southern Arizona. She has strongly advocated keeping programs free or low-cost by working in both the private and business sector to raise the necessary funds.
Brown’s Next Road
While she is moving to Phoenix to be closer to family, she will continue to play a role in the future of the Poetry Center she so loves. She will continue to serve on the Development Committee and lead state-wide outreach initiatives. She will also be working temporarily as senior advisor to the Center’s new director, Tyler Meier, as he takes on his new responsibilities.
“I’m so enthusiastic about the future of the Center,” says Browne. “I’m excited about Tyler coming from the Kenyon Review. He’s extremely knowledgeable and he’ll extend our national reach.”
An essential aspect of that reach is focused much closer to home; as an area of special emphasis within the College of Humanities, the Poetry Center is open and fully accessible to the public here in Tucson, and sponsors various University and community programs, including readings and lectures, classes and workshops, discussion groups, symposia, writing residencies, poets-in-the-schools, poets-in-the-prisons, contests, exhibitions, and online resources, including standards-based poetry curricula.