Dr. Jim Ferris, professor and Ability Center of Greater Toledo Endowed Chair in Disability Studies, and Dr. Benjamin Stroud, associate professor of English, are recipients of the Ohio Arts Council’s 2018 Individual Excellence Award.
The Individual Excellence Awards are peer recognition of creative artists for the exceptional merit of a body of their work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community.
These awards support artists’ growth and development and recognize their work in Ohio and beyond.
“It’s an honor to receive the Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council,” Ferris said. “Making poems is a lot of fun all by itself, and having my work recognized by my peers is a great bonus.”
“It’s a really nice thing to happen,” Stroud said. “You submit your work anonymously, and send it off and hope. For the panel to choose your work is really gratifying. And it’s great that Ohio continues to support artists and the arts in this way.”
Applications for the $5,000 awards are accepted in the categories of choreography, criticism, fiction/nonfiction, music composition, playwriting, and poetry.Ferris has a passion for poetry and uses his words to influence his commitment to diversity and inclusion within the Toledo community.
His books include “Slouching Towards Guantanamo,” “Facts of Life: Poems” and “The Hospital Poems.” The Lucas County poet laureate also is the author of “Laborare,” a poem he wrote by request for Wade Kapszukiewicz and read when the new mayor of Toledo was sworn in.
“Words are one of the most important ways we clothe ideas,” Ferris said. “Poetry can help people find better ways not only to experience this world, but to imagine new ways of being in the world.”
Ferris said he plans to use this accomplishment as motivation to follow his passions and enhance his commitment to the community.
“Making poems that are meaningful to people is important to me,” Ferris said. “I try to do work that is useful, and making compelling experience with language is one of the most useful things we humans can do.”Stroud specializes in creative writing and 20th-century American fiction.
“Writing is in part about making sense of some aspect of the world that surrounds us by building a little world in a story,” Stroud said. “It’s that chance to build these worlds and keep thinking about the people who inhabit them that’s always drawing me back to the page.”
Stroud is the author of the story collection titled “Byzantium,” which won the 2012 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Fiction Prize and was selected as a Best Book of the Summer in 2013 by Publisher’s Weekly and the Chicago Tribune.
His stories have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, One Story, Electric Literature, Boston Review and more.