BGSU faculty among Ohio arts award winners

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Three members of the Bowling Green State University faculty have received $5,000 Ohio Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council.

The awards are recognition by the artists’ peers for a body of work. Among this year’s recipients are writers Theresa Williams and Lawrence Coates, both of whom teach in the Creative Writing program, and composer Mikel Kuehn, of the College of Musical Arts.

Coates, who has received recognition for his novels set in his native northern California, said it was good to receive recognition from Ohio, where he has lived and taught for 15 years.

While his novels are most often set in the past and focus on the history of California, his stories often have Ohio locales. One, “Bats,” a piece of flash fiction, won the 2013 Barthelme Award.

“People really seem to like the stories I set in Ohio,” he said. He included a few of those in his application.

Still “when I write novels I tend to go back to where I feel home is,” he said.

“As a teacher as well as a writer I hope to inspire my students to write great fiction set in Ohio,” he said “I hope my students take on that work.”

Coates said he plans to use some of the grant to finance the research on forthcoming projects, including a novel set in the years after the Gold Rush.

He has to travel to archives to find some of the material he needs. “Not everything is on the internet,” he said.

Williams said she will spend her grant on needs closer at hand – both her computer and phone need to be upgraded. The 10-year-old computer, she noted, still has an XP operating system, and she uses the phone as part of her writing process.

Williams said she is in the midst of writing a graphic novel and is “in sore need of art supplies.”

Williams has developed and is teaching a workshop on the graphic novel at BGSU. “The graphic novel is opening up doors of my imagination that have never been open before,” she said.

She doesn’t expect the novel to be finished at least for two years. It is a blend of the real and supernatural, with ghosts and preachers involved.

As a writer, Williams, who has her MFA in Writing from BGSU, has published a novel and numerous short stories.

For the award she submitted two stories, “The Full 88,” which has been published in Sun Magazine, and “21 Songs for Ryokan,” which “I’m still trying to place.”

Both “are about dealing with the death of a spouse,” Williams said. “Having been married 46 years, you begin to think about what life would be like, and the fear surrounding that.”

This is her second Ohio Excellence Award.

Kuehn has won twice before. “I think it’s really fantastic that Ohio has such a strong arts council,” he said. That’s not the case in many other states. The grant money, he said, can have “quite an impact,” especially since it can be used “without stipulations” as long as the money supports the recipient’s work.

He’ll use some of the money to travel back to New York to do the final mixing on a CD of his work. An earlier grant also has helped with the project.

The recording is “kind of a smorgasbord” of his original compositions from the last 22 years, ranging from a solo work to a piece for Ensemble Dal Niente.

‘It’s hard to get those kinds of grants,” he said. “There aren’t a whole lot you can get for those kind of projects.”

The Ohio Arts Council gave out 75 awards for a total of $375,000. The recipients were selected from 392 applicants.

Also among the winners was Amy Gustine, a 2003 MFA graduate.

“I was very pleased to see BGSU so well represented in the Ohio arts grants this year,” Coates said.

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