In the MFA in Creative Writing at OSU-Cascades, we teach our students the craft of writing. We also teach our students the power of community, through art. Yes, our students write novels and memoirs and collections of poetry as part of their thesis requirements. The MFA at OSU-Cascades is about so much more than the craft of creative writing, however. It’s about tuning up our humanity, through acts of the imagination. It’s about spurring new modes of thought and imagination.
And inspiring our readers to do that, too.
Because we believe growing artists is part of a human project that involves giving back to the community at large, we teach our students to work together to engage in the politics and issues of the larger world. We teaching our students that thinking imaginatively happens as much off the page as on the page and that creative writing is, as Frank O’Hara famously wrote, what happens between two persons.
Words In Action is one important way we teach our MFA in Creative Writing students to develop an artistic praxis that manifests change in their personal lives and in their local communities. Each fall, we invite a distinguished artist-activist to lead workshops in direct social action for our graduate students and select community members. Our goal is to create an opportunity for students to develop some new skills alongside Central Oregon residents who share our passion for arts-based activism and who also believe in the power of loving this world through art.
The collaborative capstone project is vital documentation of our students’ graduate work and also an opportunity for students to create an experience that is shared by artist and audience. Which is to say rather than art as product we teach our students to approach art as process, as an avocation not an occupation. The capstone is one important way our students build relationships off the page, and start to think about what their writing does for the world.
"In the MFA in Creative Writing at OSU-Cascades, we learn to practice our art-making as a spiritual extension of the body. To influence the art, the body must be influenced. Which is to say that a group of poets and writers who sing together, hike together, cook and eat together, who play games together, play guitars together, paint and run and watch the moon together—their art changes because their bodies, in proximity to other creative bodies, shed a thick layer of the something that has been telling them not to create or love or be. And they are left naked and vulnerable, taking in deep breaths of a communal air and communal creativity."