“Writers Room is family,” says Lauren Lowe ’17. “It’s still an anchor in my life, a place where I met my friends and where we come back as alumni to meet with one another.”
Lowe got involved with Writers Room in her second year at Drexel. Now an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at New York University, she continues to be active in Writers Room and serves as a program coordinator.
Writers Room is a literary arts program established in 2014 that brings together Drexel students, alumni, faculty and staff, along with members of the University’s neighboring community, to form collaborative, inclusive spaces for creating art. Writers Room offers a wide range of free programs including workshops and cultural events; a visiting artists series; and TRIPOD, a writing and photography program supported by Canon.
“Everything we do with Writers Room is about following the needs and experiences of our participants.” —Rachel Wenrick
Founding Director Rachel Wenrick follows a collective approach to designing programs, with social justice as a core value. “The goal is always to listen to the group intently,” she says. “Everything we do with Writers Room is about following the needs and experiences of our participants. For example, when one of our founding members was displaced after a developer bought her building to convert to student apartments, we began pursuing a project on housing. We’re using the transformative power of the arts to address larger social issues.”
Continues Wenrick, “Our Second Story Collective is a revolutionary program. We’re working with a cross-sector partner network to develop a co-housing network of student tenants and homeowners as an alternative affordable housing strategy — expanding aging-in-place options and creating an intergenerational community grounded in a shared love of storytelling. This is civic engagement. Doing the work to change the world.”
For Lowe, being able to collaborate with the surrounding community has been one of the most enriching parts of the program. “There were aspects of their writing and their storytelling that I wasn’t going to learn in classes,” she reflects. “I learned from them how to be open and how to share stories. There’s just no other experience like it, where so many different people of different ages and stages of life are in a room together, creating together and sharing in this way. After my first workshop, I was hooked, and then I just never left.”
The bonds that Lowe created through the program remain. “Having these intergenerational relationships from when I was 19 is so special,” she says. “As a young person, it’s helpful to have older friends who can offer advice based on their experiences. It’s not lost on me that most people don’t have those types of relationships and bonds.” After graduating in 2017, Lowe originated roles with Writers Room as ArtistYear Fellow and Alumni Fellow, creating a trajectory to graduate school.
Lowe isn’t alone. Says Wenrick, “For such a young program, the alumni engagement in Writers Room is really extraordinary. So many people, especially now, are looking to take part in creative expression and building connection. They are craving ways to make a difference in the world. Most of our alumni aren’t writing for a living. They’re entering all sorts of professions, but at Writers Room, they’re learning a different way of being in the world, learning how to collaborate and come to consensus in a diverse group.”
In March 2022, Writers Room opened a year-long exhibition, “A New Kind of House,” in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery. The retrospective exhibit celebrates eight years of Writers Room and features the photography and writing of students, community neighbors and eight alumni. The works are displayed alongside those of the Drexel Collection. “It’s a conversation about how the University and neighborhood have changed and are changing,” says Wenrick. “Having a Paul Robeson High School student’s work next to a traditional oil painting is a way to say, ‘We’re here. This is what Drexel looks like now.’”
“A New Kind of House” runs through March 2023. It is free and open to the public Mondays to Fridays, from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Please consider a donation to the Writers Room. Your generosity will help build new programs and events and enable staff to promote activities to a wider range of students, alumni, and community members. It’s easy to donate using this secure website: giving.drexel.edu/WritersRoom