Professor Wendy Walters Wins 2020 Creative Capital Award

Rochelle Goldstein
February 20, 2020

Visiting Associate Professor Wendy S. Walters was recently awarded the prestigious Creative Capital award, given in support of innovative and adventurous artists. The lucrative prize will allow Walters to finish her long-term book project, a nonfiction work investigating “…white paint in aesthetic contexts [that] explore[s] the social and cultural implications of its use…” 

White paint’s impact in “various architectures: the built environment, community and emotional landscapes” as a subject grew out of Walters’ irritation some years ago over “the frequency with which the walls of educational spaces are painted in white.” The work reflects her polyglot interests and leapfrogs through architecture, environmental and art history and consumer cultures, and her own personal experiences. Questions of design intersect with personal history in a number of surprising ways, and Walters also looks into why white paintings (in the fine arts) got named as milestones of modernism and/or minimalism. 

Talking to Amy Wright of Guernica, Walters noted that she is also writing “about the industrial Midwest [where Walters is from], with an eye to how the black middle class fit(s) into that space… I am interested in the aesthetics of class experience, and the ways that industrial backdrop shapes perceptions of power and beauty.” 

But then Walters is a literary shapeshifter, who has deftly moved across different genres—poetry to prose, from first person to reportage. Her last book, Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal (Sarabande Books, 2015) was very much a hybrid, stitching together the personal and the journalistic. Buzzfeed, Lit Hub, The Root, and the Huffington Post all named it as one of the best books of the year. She has also published two books of poetry, Troy, Michigan, and Longer I Wait, More You Love Me, and has collaborated with composer Derek Bermel. She is a senior nonfiction editor at The Iowa Review.  

Among her honors, Walters has been awarded fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, the Ford Foundation, The Smithsonian Institution, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.