Born in Madrid to Cuban-exiled parents and raised in Miami, Richard Blanco's work explores the themes of cultural identity and place. In 2013, he was chosen to read at Barack Obama's second Presidential Inauguration, joining the ranks of such luminary poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. He stands as the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in this role. Since 2016 he has served on the Obama Foundation's storytelling committee. A committed proponent of the civic role that poetry can fulfill in the public realm, Blanco's work addresses sociopolitical matters that affect us collectively. He is the contributing poet to "The Village Voice," a bi-monthly segment on Boston public radio station WGBH that discusses news topics through the lens of socially conscious poetry.
The Academy of American Poets chose Richard Blanco to serve as its first Education Ambassador. He writes lesson plans for the Academy, visits students at all grade levels, and conducts workshops for educators on innovative and easy ways to teach poetry. He is also a frequent poet-in-residence at high schools across the country, offering interdisciplinary programs for both students and educators, customized to meet each school's particular needs.
His latest book of poems, How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019), both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkept promise of its ideals.
Poetry students at the Young Artists Institute will have the unique opportunity to work on their craft in a small group setting with daily guidance from Blanco as the 2019 Artist-in-Residence.
“Great art can close the gap between you and everything that isn’t you and in this way pass from feeling to meaning.” – Robert Hughes
As for Lance Copeland, however, art has always closed that gap and been a part of who he is. Born to a middle school art teacher in Oregon, Copeland spent his childhood drawing, painting and pouring over art books. He attended Southern Oregon University, and also studied under Sergei Yatsenko, honing his representational oil painting.
Fascinated by original artwork, and the creative process, Copeland is driven to explore. He’s always looking and learning how to better instill the life around him into his work through not just ideas, but technical skill. He is passionate about sharing, and encouraging others on their own artistic journey.
Copeland returns this summer to his alma mater not as a student, but a teacher, to pass on his decades of experience in art. He currently lives in Sacramento, with his family. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his children and observing the natural world.
Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Timesmagazine, the Chicago Tribune, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.
Midge worked in publishing in New York before moving to Boston, where she taught communication writing at Boston University for six years. She has taught creative writing at Boston's Grub Street Writers, Seattle's Richard Hugo House, and San Diego Writers, Ink. She has also published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing.
Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press.
Barret O’Brien is a writer, actor, and educator from New Orleans. His newest play Water Made to Rise adds physical theater to the global movement to reverse climate change.
Barret is the founder of American Dog Theater Company where he served as artistic director for seven seasons. As an actor he’s appeared on many stages: in Brooklyn and Bonn, Pennsylvania and Paris, Los Angeles and London, Boston and Budapest. Barret has been on stage as part the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Company for five seasons.
His writings have been published by Smith & Kraus Books, Jefferson Journal, LA Miscellany, American Dog Books, Calliope, and Yale Palimpsest and enjoyed productions in Seattle, New Orleans, New York, with cities in between. His debut novel, Greater Wilder, just stepped out of its cave and yawned.
He’s taught acting and playwrighting at the Dwight/Edgewood Project at Yale University, Southern Oregon University, the Beargrass Writing Retreat, Southern Rep’s Theater Apprentice Program, Young Artists Institute, and the City University of New York.
Jay, YAI Program Director, has taught poetry and creative writing for over 15 years, and now teaches at Central Medford High School. Along with his practice of poetry, he trains in karate, makes his own vests and shirts, and is learning how to play the guitar. He's a Fishtrap Fellow, an Emerging Voices Finalist, he's won several poetry awards and contests and has had his work published in a variety of literary journals including Whistling Fire Review, Jefferson Monthly, West Wind Review, and Watershed.
Bestsy has graced the stage in dramas and musicals, but lately she's been immersed in her work as a producer, director and Thespian sponsor. She earned her B.A. in theatre from Catholic University in Washington, DC and her M.A. in teaching from Southern Oregon University. Since she began teaching at Ashland High School in 1988 she has maintained a rich connection with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which blossomed into a 22-year partnership. She is also a 19-year partner with Manhattan Theatre Club's Theatre link Program, working with playwrights and artists from schools in the US and beyond. AHS Theatre won the 2013 ETA national award as OUTSTANDING SCHOOL THEATRE. Her husband, Wesley, an equity actor and screenwriter, and their three children, Kelly, Travis and Micaela (along with her two grandsons) continue to be the joy of her life!
Kathi is a writer, curious traveler and longtime teacher of Creative Writing at Ashland High School. She has a B.S. in Education with an emphasis in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Geography from Southern Oregon University, and an M.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a thesis focus in poetry from Southern Oregon University. She is a former co-director of the Oregon Writing Project (1986 and 1987), a long serving board member of the Oregon Council of Teachers of English (1992-2007) and currently an active board member of The Chautauqua Poets and Writers (since 2006). Over the course of her teaching career, she taught AP Literature for twenty years, World Religion, and Classics and Modern World Literature.