20 Years On, Grub's Still Write Down the Street
For the first eight years of our existence, GrubStreet workshops met in a variety of places—in Hebrew School classrooms, church attics, coffee houses, art galleries, pubs, and Montessori schools, among other places—in Brookline, Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. It wasn’t always easy to manage these spaces. The fire alarm often went off at the Temple in Brookline late at night, the massive church doors on Newbury Street in Boston had to be kept locked, meaning the teacher would have to climb down three flights if a student arrived late. And this was before cell phones, so any latecomers would have to shout and knock loudly to be heard! At an art gallery in Somerville, our teachers had to set up a table and chairs each week. By 2005, we were ready to leave our nomadic life behind and took what felt like a terrifying leap by moving into our own space in downtown Boston. In order to afford the rent, we began teaching all of our workshops, with few exceptions, in our central location.
It felt risky at the time. If it failed, we would have had to close our doors. But happily, it worked. Our students followed us.
And they told their friends and networks about us, and we grew and grew, becoming a unique and valued resource for writers at all levels of experience. However, as we grew and our offerings evolved, the makeup of our student body still largely reflected the neighborhoods we taught in for our first eight years of life. These days, we’re excited to be working hard to ensure that we become a resource for all of Boston’s writers.
Our vision is to build the most inclusive writing center in the country, where people of all backgrounds and income levels can come together to study craft, push their writing forward, and forge the kind of friendships and professional connections that have made GrubStreet the singular place it’s been for twenty years. To support this vision, the Barr Foundation awarded us significant multi-year funding last year to help us reach and serve new audiences.
With this support and the partnership of the Boston Public Library, we launched a program called “Write Down the Street / Autores a la vuelta,” through which we offered free bilingual creative writing classes in Roxbury and Dorchester. One goal of the program is to better serve writers in Boston communities that are currently under-served by our downtown location, and to better understand all of Grub writers' uniques wants and needs.
A year in, our terrific Neighborhood Fellows Jennifer De Leon and Denise Delgado, who lead the program, have compiled an incredible report, rich with testimonials, writing samples, pictures, and yes, a bit of data for the data minded among us. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read about their impressive work.
Neighborhood Fellows Denise Delgado (third from left) and Jennifer De Leon (third from
right) with students from the Write Down the Street Program
My favorite testimonial is from a student named Nydia Mendez. She writes: Unexpectedly I found a group of wonderful souls with a great common interest. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of what I believe to be a rare experience. A diverse group of strangers came together and became a community of teachers and learners. I began the workshop as an aspiring writer, and not only have I gained understanding of the writing process, but also a new found confidence in my abilities. Time went by so quickly leaving many of us thirsty for more. Crónicas y cuentos leaves me feeling grateful and inspired!
We’re excited to be continuing this program in Roxbury with the BPL in the coming year and starting a program in Mattapan, and to announce that with the support of the Calderwood Foundation, we’ll be adding teen programs into the mix.
Eve Bridburg is the Founder and Executive Director of GrubStreet. Under her leadership, the organization has grown into a national literary powerhouse known for artistic excellence, working to democratize the publishing pipeline and program innovation. An active partner to the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Eve was the driving force behind establishing the country’s first Literary Cultural District in downtown Boston and securing chapter 91 space in the Seaport to build a creative writing center. The Barr Foundation recently named her a 2019 Barr Fellow in recognition of her leadership. Having graduated from its inaugural class, Eve remains active with the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, a consortium of 200 of the world’s top cultural leaders, which addresses the critical issues that face the arts and cultural sector worldwide. Eve has presented on the future of publishing, what it takes to build a literary arts center, and the intersection of arts and civics at numerous local and national conferences. Her essays and op-eds on publishing, the role of creative writing centers and the importance of the narrative arts have appeared in The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Cognoscenti, Writer's Digest and TinHouse. Eve serves on the Advisory Board of The Loop Lab, a new Cambridge-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing representation in the Media Arts. Eve worked as a literary agent at The Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency for five happy years where she developed, edited, and sold a wide variety of books to major publishers. Before starting GrubStreet, she attended Boston University’s Writing program on a teaching fellowship, farmed in Oregon, and ran an international bookstore in Prague.See other articles by Eve Bridburg