Pushing a Boulder Up a Hill

on September 4 | in Featured | by

First published in 1977, Artemis still celebrates the prodigious talents of Southwest Virginia writers and artists, including Hollins students, alumnae, and faculty.

By Jeff Hodges M.A.L.S. ’11

Cover art for Artemis

Taubman View #4: H&C Coffee (2011), shown as it was cropped for the cover of Artemis’ 2015 issue, was painted by Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White. The painting is in the collection of the Taubman Museum of Art; the image is used with the museum’s permission.

For the better part of four decades, Artemis has showcased compelling new voices in tandem with notable authors who have ranged from poet laureates to Pulitzer Prize and other major award winners and nominees. The rich history of creativity at Hollins in the written word and other artistic expression has played an integral role in the success and perseverance of Artemis: Through the years, more than 140 Hollins writers and artists, including more than 90 students and 40 professors, have been featured contributors or have donated their time and expertise as board members for the all-volunteer operation.

“Without Hollins and the direction it provided, Artemis would not have lasted,” says editor and founder Jeri Rogers M.A.L.S. ’91.

Artemis began in 1977 while Rogers was serving as director of the Women’s Resource Center in Roanoke, sponsored by Total Action Against Poverty (now Total Action for Progress). “I had gotten a grant to do a photographic study of women and in the process found that a lot of my subjects were writers. At the same time, one of the biggest problems I saw at the center was women who had suffered from abuse. That’s a really tough subject to deal with because poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness are also involved. It was so upsetting and sad to see this, but I thought, ‘What can we do to help move this forward?’ So I started a writing workshop for abused women.”

The first workshop, which was run “with the help of some of Hollins’ best writers,” she says, generated “amazing results.” Rogers was inspired to launch a new literary journal that she named Artemis after the lunar goddess. “I pitched the idea and my supervisors were like, ‘Go for it, we’ll get some money for you.’ That was how it started, and it was such a great vehicle because it published some of the writings of these women and talked about the work we were doing at the center.”

Poems and short stories by Hollins students and professors appeared as well in the debut issue of Artemis. Over the years, the literary journal has included work from such authors as recently retired Professor of English Jeanne Larsen M.A. ’72, Professor of English Cathryn Hankla ’80, M.A. ’82, and Beth Macy M.A. ’93, and such artists as Professor of Art Emeritus Bill White and Betty Branch ’79, M.A.L.S. ’87. Well into the 1980s, Hollins faculty writers including Amanda Cockrell ’69, M.A. ’88 (founding director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature), Thorpe Moeckel (associate professor of English), and Professor of English Eric Trethewey (who died in 2014) continued to play a prominent role in the writing workshops. Rogers notes that “[Professor of English] Richard Dillard got involved early on, and thanks to him, every issue of Artemis is now part of special collections at the Wyndham Robertson Library.”

The first 20-plus years of the journal’s existence were gratifying yet exhausting for Rogers and her volunteers. She was raising three children and working as a professional photographer. Artemis went dormant in 2000 for more than 10 years, but “there were a number of us who missed it,” Rogers recalls, “and we decided to resurrect it in 2014” with one caveat: “We’ve gotta keep it small.” Today, the Artemis staff features Rogers and six other volunteers, and she has emphasized recruiting younger people to make sure the journal continues for years to come.

Rogers admits that producing a “beautifully printed, perfect-bound,” 200-page volume in the digital age “is a challenge. It’s pushing that boulder up that hill. But we don’t give up. There’s nothing like having your work printed … in a book.”

Since its return, Artemis’ print run has increased to between 500 and 600 copies. Most copies are sold for $25 during a celebration launch event held each year at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art. The official debut of Artemis XXVI, the 2019 edition of the journal, took place in June. It’s also available for purchase online.

Fittingly, the two featured writers and artists in Artemis XXVI are distinguished Hollins alumnae: Natasha Trethewey M.A. ‘91, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate, and Sally Mann ’74, M.A. ’75. “Natasha – you just can’t get much better than that. And what can we say about Sally other than ‘wow,’” says Rogers.

Artemis literary editor Maurice Ferguson, Jeri Rogers, and Beth Harris

Artemis literary editor Maurice Ferguson, editor and founder Jeri Rogers, and Special Collections Librarian Beth Harris

Two of the key players since the beginning who continue to play vital roles today are literary editor Maurice Ferguson and design editor Virginia Lepley. Rogers also cites organizations such as the Taubman Museum, which provides space for the annual issue launch free of charge, and the Roanoke Arts Commission, whose grants have given Artemis crucial financial support.

“When you start something, it’s probably going to work out if you have good intentions,” Rogers concludes. “If it’s egotistically motivated, it’s going to have some problems. It won’t last. All along, during the history of Artemis, there have been people who get on board, are so dedicated to the arts, and want to keep this thing going. I think that’s why we’ve existed as long as we have.”

Jeff Hodges is director of public relations.




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