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2022 End of Year Appeal

As we are entering the last quarter of 2022 I am delighted to update you on the goings-on at Thornwillow over the past year, in the areas of teaching and fellowships, publications and outreach, and building and capital improvements.

First, to our programs, and the work of the Thornwillow Institute.

Through these  programs we educate artisans of all ages and backgrounds to acquire the skills necessary to engage in the related arts and crafts of the written word related to the art and craft of the printed word.

Thornwillow West Point Fellowship: This year, in collaboration with the U.S. Military Academy, we again supported several new Thornwillow West Point Fellows, who prepared for publication Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story,” our October Dispatch title. O’Brien (whose reading for our Ulysses project will be released later this year) is enthusiastic about the project. In addition to working on the typography and design of the book, the West Point cadets got their hands dirty in the bindery and made paste paper, the design of which is featured on our Patrons’ edition of “How to Tell a True War Story.”

Ongoing Training Program: In the bindery and pressroom, thanks to the ongoing support of our donors and subscribers, we have been able to welcome three new future artisans into our extended training program and to provide affordable housing for them in one of the neighboring buildings. (We have room for more, so please spread the word!)

Newburgh Free Academy Internships: We have expanded our internship program with the Newburgh Free Academy, our local high school. This term we have 4 interns who will likely work at the press this summer.

Summer Fellowships: We were thrilled to host three summer fellows in 2022: one from the bookbinding program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston and two graduating Hotchkiss seniors, one who started at Yale this fall and the other at Princeton.

The Thornwillow Patrons’ Prize for Emerging Writers: As part of our collaboration with the New York Foundation for the Arts, now in its fourth year, we published through our Dispatch series the work of two winners of the Thornwillow Patrons Prize for Emerging Artists, aimed at supporting and catalyzing the careers of up-and-coming artists and writers. Donna Steiner’s elegiac cycle of poems – “Part Horror, Part Magic, Holy Ourselves” – powerfully reflects the rhythms of life and loss, like waves on the ocean, and explores the depths of what it means to be at home, both in the world and within one’s own body. “The Girling Season,” by Christina Miletti, is a dystopian fiction for unsettling times. Miletti weaves a chilling tale about a society of “girlers” and young women they train and trade. In the tradition of Angela Carter’s fables and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Girling Season” reminds us that the dynamics of gender, power and politics have long histories and far-reaching futures. Each of these publications is produced in a beautiful, letterpress printed limited edition, designed to shine a spotlight on these exceptional writers. As part of the prize, copies are distributed to our Thornwillow Dispatch subscribers, as well as to editors, critics, literary foundations, special collections libraries, and other opinion leaders in the literary and art worlds.

Next, our publications – the work of the Thornwillow Press.

The Thornwillow Dispatch: We continue to release a new Dispatch publication every month. These short letterpress printed chapbooks along with related keepsakes and ephemera are our version of a “Harry’s Shave Club” for fine printing. Earlier this year we published “Landscape” by Nobel laureate Louise Gluck, Calvin Trillin’s fascinating meditation on wine, “The Red and the White,” “How to Guarantee a Life of Misery” by Charles Munger, and more. The next title will be “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which tells the story of a man who ages backwards. Following “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” we will ship “How to Tell a True War Story” by Tim O’Brien,  and “The Arrest of Arsène Lupin” by Maurice LeBlanc. Our December Dispatch will feature three stories from the famous collectors of folk tales from around the world: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The three stories (“Rumpelstiltskin,” “Bearskin,” and “The Maiden Without Hands”) illustrate the dangers of the art of the deal (as it were), and will be accompanied by original and exclusive wood engravings made by Rebecca Gilbert.

The Thornwillow Centennial Edition of Ulysses. Our yearlong publication and reading series devoted to the Centennial Edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses is our most successful launch to date. We raised more from pre-publication subscribers than for any previous project – and from a smaller number of readers. Production was delayed by dramatic supply chain problems in the paper industry, but now that we have what we need we are almost back on track: Volumes one through three of the Installment Edition have been shipped to subscribers and volumes four through six are nearing printing. Our deluxe four-volume sets will be bound and distributed in 2023.

The Thornwillow Bloomsyear reading series.The virtual “Bloomsyear” readings have been coming out slowly but surely, and we are very proud of them. Ten out of eighteen total currently online – may we cite “supply chain” issues with our readers as well? We have many wonderful participants including Stephen Fry, David Mamet, Aedin Moloney, Malachy McCourt, Colum McCann, and many more. The numerous scholarly and library readers — showcasing special editions and unique inscribed or annotated copies of Ulysses — pay tribute to the publication history of this difficult, important, and beautiful work. The reading by Salman Rushdie, whose recovery from a recent heinous and unprovoked attack upstate we hope for daily, reminds us of the risks taken by those who dare to question societal and cultural norms in print. We are particularly honored by his participation. Friends of the press from all over the world round out the readings. They are a delight and we hope you are listening to them, either through our podcast (The Colophon), on our blog, or on our Youtube channel.

Finally, our campus, where it all comes together.

The renovation and restoration of these historic structures allows us to house our people and our efforts, and to revive our corner of Newburgh to the grandeur of its early days.

Celebrating success! We opened the year with a groundbreaking alongside then-Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. Our residence building at 29 Spring Street and the yellow cottage having been completed, and we are now looking to the final stages of the corner building. Construction on the corner building with the bookstore cafe and 3 more apartments is moving into its final phase and with luck will be done within the coming months. For this project we received significant support from the Hearst Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, New York State and numerous individual donors like you. We have finished the general construction — walls, a roof, and new windows! We are looking to complete this building in 2023 by finishing the electric and plumbing fixtures, bookshelves and cabinetry. The city of Newburgh requires us to redo the sidewalk in front of the corner building which will slow things down, but it is all moving along well. Post-COVID prices exceed our pre-COVID budget. We have secured a short term loan to bridge the difference, but the debt service until we achieve a stage at which the space can earn income is a heavy lift.

We are also looking to the future with our plans for the Carriage House, the large red building across the street from our main campus. This building will house an art gallery and event space as well as several makers studios for use by our staff, students, and visiting fellows. And very big news: the theater company is clearing their materials out of the red building, so we can finally get our arms around how to deploy that fabulous space.

We are also almost done with the renovation of a beautiful new studio space for fellows and folks in the training program.

The ask:

You have already been most generous in supporting our work generally and the corner building project in particular. But the hope is that you might be able to add to your support before the end of the year to help us bring the project over the finish line. Thanks to you and donors like you, we are almost there. It is good news for the mission of the Institute and the community.