Submitted by Artists Book House
In April, Deborah Siegel-Acevedo, author, teacher and social entrepreneur, joined Artists Book House as its inaugural executive director. Founded by Audrey Niffenneger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, ABH seeks to promote, teach and build community around the literary arts and the crafts of book making. Through courses, exhibitions, readings, lectures – and pop-up creative and community-oriented delights– the nonprofit is on a mission to empower people to tell their stories and transform their worlds into books.
“As ABH begins a new chapter, I’m honored to join this group of passionate artists and supporters of the literary and book-inspired arts,” Siegel-Acevedo said. After three years of isolation and, for many creatives, stagnation, she sees ABH filling a deep hole. “I’ve always believed creativity is fostered in community. I dedicate my whole heart to creating a big tent under which Chicago’s large and diverse bookish community can gather, collaborate, celebrate, write, and make art. I’m more than ready to carve out that space and welcome in the community with open arms.”
The organization will work out of Colvin House, the co-working mansion in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, as it takes its time finding its new permanent home. ABH had hoped to build the literary center in Evanston’s vacant Harley Clarke mansion, but those plans fell through in January.
ABH is intent on filling a void that is becoming increasingly apparent as university programs shrink and shutter. Ken Gerleve, interim board co-president, received his MFA from Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper, which Niffenneger helped establish. “Our goal with ABH is to offer university-quality classes at community prices, and to marry the literary and book arts in ways we don’t often see done. We’re keenly interested in making MFA-level offerings and events accessible to those who may otherwise lack the ability to participate in high-quality writing and arts education,” he said. “And Deborah has a track record of executing on big ideas like ours.”
Siegel-Acevedo joins ABH after helping launch HumanitiesX, DePaul’s Mellon Foundation-funded public humanities collaborative, where she coordinated program development, operations, budget, communications, and program evaluation. Previously, she founded and furthered multiple start-ups in the literary space, including the pandemic online course pop-up Bold Voice Collaborative, the global network SheWrites.com (co-founder), and The Op-Ed Project, where she helped establish the social venture’s presence in the Midwest. She’s been a central player in numerous initiatives at the intersection of voice, community, and literary expression.
“We chose Deborah for her on-the-ground experience and her history of launching less-heard voices into the public worlds of arts and ideas,” said Niffenneger. “She brings a creative spirit, inclusiveness, and business acumen to the role.”
A popular writing teacher who built a successful business coaching and mentoring other creatives, Siegel-Acevedo is the author of two nonfiction books (Sisterhood, Interrupted with Random House and Only Child, with Palgrave Macmillan, co-edited with Daphne Uviller) as well as myriad essays and op-eds published in venues ranging from TriQuarterly to The Washington Post. She holds a doctorate in Literary Studies from the University of Wisconsin and lives in Evanston with her family, after having spent 15 years working and living in New York.
“A professional writer for many years, I understand what goes into sustaining creative work. I’m excited to work with this amazing Board to help establish a space that nourishes current and future generations of writers and book artists,” she said. “If you’re part of an arts organization in the Chicago area and are hungry to collaborate with us on events and do something different, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”