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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Gov. Mario Cuomo, William Kennedy, and E.L. Doctorow at the New York State Author/Poet Award Ceremony, 1989
Governor Mario Cuomo, authors William Kennedy and E.L. Doctorow at New York State Author/Poet Award Ceremony, 1989. Photo courtesy New York State Writers Institute

New York State Writers Institute

Founded in 1983, the New York Writers Institute in Albany is among America's premiere sites for celebrating the art of the written word. Its programs provide the broadest possible educational base for students of writing, access to some of the greatest living authors for serious readers of literature, enthusiastic audiences in excellent venues for visiting writers, and important cultural initiatives for the public.

At the heart of the Writers Institute is its Visiting Writers Series, bringing 30 to 35 novelists, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, and nonfiction writers to Albany each year from all over the world. Of the nearly 500 artists who have participated in the program since Saul Bellow's 1984 inaugural reading have been winners of six Nobel Prizes in literature, 47 Pulitzers, 58 National Book awards, numerous Motion Picture Academy awards, as well as 78 members in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The institute's classic film series features the work of distinguished filmmakers and screenwriters. These have included James Ivory, Ismail Merchant, Neil Jordan, Elmore Leonard, Costa-Gavras, and Robert Wise, who also participated in the attended the series. Other programs include residencies, a young writers institute, and an biannual state recognition program that awards a fiction writer with the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit and a poet with the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit.

The institute was initiated by novelist William Kennedy, after receiving the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1983. The fellowship entitled Kennedy to designate $15,000 per year for three years to the institution of his choice. Kennedy gave the money to the State University of New York at Albany for the purpose of establishing the Writers Institute. The following year, the state made the institute a state-sponsored organization.

Documentation includes a project report, awards brochures, the institute's newsletter, film and nonfiction symposium programs, a video, two audio tapes from public radio shows, and promotional material.

Originally submitted by: Michael R. McNulty, Representative (21st District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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