About WritersCorps 1994-2016
Between 1994-2016, WritersCorps was an award-winning program that placed professional writers in communities to teach creative writing to youth. Through free workshops, we helped young people connect with their creativity, strengthen their voices, and confidently express their ideas. WritersCorps was a joint project of the San Francisco Arts Commission and San Francisco Public Library and was fiscally-sponsored project of Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.
Founded in 1994, WritersCorps was a celebrated national program that brought creative writing into the lives of youth. Each year, hundreds of young people living in some of the nation’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods experienced firsthand the power of writing. WritersCorps’ dedicated teaching artists, all published writers themselves, employed innovative curricula that made literature relevant to the experiences of their students. With its teaching artist residencies, publications, and events, WritersCorps became a national arts and literacy model. WritersCorps was born out of discussions between Jane Alexander, former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and Eli Siegel, then-director of AmeriCorps. San Francisco, Washington, D.C, and Bronx, New York, were selected as the three sites for WritersCorps, chosen for these cities’ exemplary art agencies with deep community roots and for their traditions of community activism among writers. In these three cities, WritersCorps’ teaching artists, working at public schools and social service organizations, helped young people improve their literacy and communication skills, while offering creative expression as an alternative to violence, truancy, alcohol and drug abuse. In 1997, WritersCorps transitioned from being a federally funded program to an independent alliance that was supported by a collaboration of public and private partners. DC WritersCorps became a nonprofit organization while San Francisco and the Bronx WritersCorps became projects of the San Francisco Arts Commission (City of San Francisco) and the Bronx Council for the Arts, respectively. As always, writers continued to teach in their communities, inspiring youth to not only improve their writing skills, but to develop further as thoughtful individuals, and to discover and act on their own goals in life.
In 2016, the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) announced that WritersCorps was changing from a direct service program to a teaching artist grants program in response to it’s strategic plan. The SFAC convened key stakeholders to consider how best to honor and retain the legacy of WritersCorps; it was critical that SFAC uphold and maintain the values that the program has embodied as it evolves into its next iteration.
The WritersCorps Teaching Artist-in-Residence (WCTAIR( grants model provides an exciting opportunity to retain the most important aspects of WritersCorps. The grant will include support for livable wages for teaching artists, cohort learning, and community-centered residencies for in- and after-school sites and libraries in San Francisco. The grants will also offer three-year commitments to provide the long-term, in-depth programming that is the cornerstone of the WritersCorps model. WritersCorps’ City funding partners—Department of Children, Youth and Their Families and the San Francisco Public Library—have a sustained commitment to and enthusiastically support the program’s new design.
Building on the incredible legacy of WritersCorps, the new grants strategy will enable the San Francisco Arts Commission to support teaching artists in their work developing the literacy and creative writing skills of young people.
San Francisco WritersCorps gratefully acknowledges the support of individual donors and the following organizations: