April 26 • 06:28 AM
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01/27/2012 - On Thursday, January 26, at 7 pm, Bright Hill Literary Center will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its reading series, Word Thursdays, with an open mic hosted by Annie Sauter, Oneonta, one of the original members of the organization. The reading, in which all are invited to present their own work or that of others for up to eight minutes, will take place in the library at Bright Hill, 94 Church Street, Treadwell, one block north of Barlow's General Store on County Route 14.  Admission is $3 (free to those 18 and under), and refreshments will be served.

Word Thursdays began on a cold January evening in 1992; the first open mic was held at the home of Bertha Rogers and Ernest M. Fishman, located three miles south of Treadwell. Five people came to that first reading; they had responded to a notice in The Daily Star announcing what was to become a regular series, and what would host, by 2012, more than 2000 poets, writers, storytellers, and playwrights. That reading eventually expanded to become Bright Hill Press and Literary Center, ultimately relocating, in 2002, to 94 Church Street, Treadwell.

By 1993 Word Thursdays had added the Speaking the Words Festival; and in 1994 the organization incorporated as Bright Hill Press and published its first title, the Speaking the Words Anthology.

Bright Hill would go on to offer the Summer and Winter Literary Workshops for Kids, long a staple for the organization (many of the participants began at age five and stayed long enough to become junior and senior interns). For the first several years, the workshops took place in Rogers's home studio and in the living room and dining room of the farmhouse she and Fishman still live in.   Since that time, there have been writing and visual arts workshops for adults, as well; all the workshops take place in the Education Wing, formerly a garage, but fully renovated in 2008 as classroom space.

In 1996 Bright Hill, always mindful of its commitment to the community, began its Share the Words High-School Poetry Mentoring and Competition Program, offering young poets from throughout the region a chance to develop and showcase their poetry.

The organization has also  collaborated with schools and colleges, including SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College, to present many writing and visual arts opportunities, including the Iroquois Festival of 1996. Bright Hill's Word & Image Gallery showcases the works of regional and nationally-recognized artists. Bright Hill Press has published the poetry and visual works of hundreds of writers from the Catskill region and from throughout the United States and internationally.

In 2005, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and with support from the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O'Connor Foundation and the Walter Rich Charitable Foundation, as well as support from many community members, Bright Hill opened its brand-new library wing, the BH Community Library, offering free wi-fi and an important humanities collection. That collection is in the process of being cataloged and library cards with lending privileges are available to all; and its collection may be seen at http://bhc.scoolaid.net/bin/home. BHLC also has the Kitchen Bookshop, a bookstore with used books of every genre, selling for $1 and $2.  The library has hosted performances and readings by such groups as the New York Harp Trio, harpsichordist Elaine Comparone and members of The Queen's Chamber Band, and the cabaret singer Julian Fleisher. 

Bright Hill also built, with the help of the Catskill Outdoors Corps, of SUNY Delhi, the beautiful "Patterns" literary garden, complete with a "secret garden" for children; those outdoor spaces are available to the whole community.

At the invitation of the Literature Program of New York State Council on the Arts, Bright Hill developed (in 1998) and maintains, in partnership with NYSCA, the New York State Literary Website, http://www.nyslittree.org. The website has up to 40,000 visitors from all over the world each month.

Bright Hill Press & Literary Center's 2012 programs are made possible, in part, by the New York State council on the Arts, the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O'Connor Foundation, the Otis A.Thompson Foundation, the A. C. Molinari Foundation, the Tianaderrah Foundation, Stewart's Shops, Price Chopper's Golub Foundation, area businesses, and its members and friends. Bright Hill is a member of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses and the New York Council of Non-Profits. Bright Hill's Community Library, which features an extensive collection of literary and art-related volumes as well as children's literature, is free and open to the public Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 am - 4 pm, Wednesdays, 9 am - noon, during Word Thursdays readings, and by appointment. Free wireless Internet access is available in the library. For further information about BHLC and its programs, contact Bright Hill Center at 607-829-5055 or email the Center at wordthur@stny.rr.com.   

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