The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
By Deborah Briggs, Betsy Writers Room
Many Miami pre-war hotels had ‘Writing Rooms’ for travellers and guests. In a continuing effort to link past and present through the arts, The Betsy-South Beach opened a ‘Writers Room’ in Spring 2012 during National Poetry Month; poets Tom Healy, Billy Collins, Daniel Halpern, Campbell McGrath, Scott Cunningham, and others celebrated with readings.
The Writer’s Room at The Betsy was created as part of a commitment to cultivating arts and literature programs, and as a legacy to Poet Hyam Plutzik, a ‘mid-century’ Pulitzer Prize finalist whose desk is in the room, and whose sentiment to ‘Expect no more. This is happiness’ invites global travellers to engage around ‘things that matter’ at The Betsy-South Beach. For more information: betsywritersroom.com
Awarded a coveted Knight Arts Challenge in the 2013 cycle for its second phase of growth, The Betsy’s vision is for a very special place on South Beach that is tranquil, and inviting, and that inspires writers to do their best work. Artists pay their own way, yet stay for free for up to 7 days surrounded by the beauty of sun and sand.
Created to emulate a New York studio at mid-century with a residency program reminiscent of Yaddo and MacDowell, there is a hyper-focus on poets engaged in final stage efforts. Yet the Writer’s Room at The Betsy also defines ‘writing’ broadly to include creators who use sound, letters, and images -- and encourages writers to ‘meet the public’. To that end, Knight Challenge funds will jumpstart a series of year-round ‘Writer’s Summits’, on property and in the community.
Recent Writers in Residence included Editor and Poet David Lehman (Yeshiva Boys) Afro-Chicano poet, professor and playwright John Murrillo (Up Jump The Boogie), Journalist Bob Reiss (The Eskimo and the Oilman), Architectural Historian Keith Eggener (Cemeteries), African American Scholar and Curator, Leslie King Hammond Hughie Lee Smith). This spring the Writer’s Room will welcome novelist John Hodgen, poet Amy Eisner, doodle-artist Carol Edmonston, Shakespearean actor Nigel Maister, and ethicist Dov Seidman. In April 2013, more than 20 global poets will be in residence during National Poetry Month in collaboration with Knight Foundation Grant recipient Scott Cunningham’s O, Miami and University of Wynwood projects.
The Betsy Hotel in South Beach re-opened its doors in February 2009, after an extensive renovation. A luxury boutique hotel, The Betsy is also a small business with a commitment to community conscious programs and practices. The Writer’s Room was created by taking a hotel room ‘off the grid’; it’s now a sacred place reserved for writers.
Betsy owner Jonathan Plutzik (son of poet Hyam Plutzik) answered a timeless civic call when he created Marketing, Philanthropy and Programs in the Arts as the lens through which all things Betsy would flow. Four years later, The Betsy has become not only a great arts partner to organizations and individuals in the region, but a catalytic force in building global community through arts engagement. The Betsy was recently awarded the Boutique Lifestyle and Lodging Association’s Hotel of the Year Prize – for its unique efforts in arts/business collaboration.
In the tradition of myriad historic rooms where great writing has been done, The Writer’s Room at The Betsy has thrown its hat into the ring as a place where tomorrow’s artists will do their best work. Knight Foundation funding will enable The Betsy to disseminate a bi-annual publication reflecting progress on Writer’s Room Programs.
Writer's Room at The Betsy Hotel