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“Ernie Pook” Creator on Campus

Lynda Barry Wows as Artist-in-Residence

UMass Lowell Image
Award-winning cartoonist and writer Lynda Barry gave a popular creativity workshop at UMass Lowell as part of her fall 2011 Artist-in-Residence for the Center for Arts & Ideas.

By Julia Gavin

For the last several decades, Lynda Barry has shared her passion for art, writing and life through "Ernie Pook's Comeek" — a cornerstone of the alternative comic world—and numerous graphic novels, books and, most recently, creativity workshops. In recognition of her creative excellence, Barry was named the fall 2011 Artist-in-Residence for the Center for Arts & Ideas at UMass Lowell.

“I’ve absolutely loved my time here at UMass Lowell and I’m jealous of everyone who gets to come here,” says Barry of the University. “I would study here in a second, I would teach here in a second, it’s just an excellent place to be.”

Barry’s stay at the University included teaching several master classes, one-on-one meetings with students and professors, a standing-room-only lecture (watch a video of her session) and a workshop where students and professors alike learned from the creative maven. 

“Lynda Barry has been absolutely amazing. She has shared her work with both students and professors and every person she meets is important to her,” says Art Prof. Jehanne-Marie Gavarini, co-director of the Center for Arts & Ideas, “She’s such a generous and creative spirit and has certainly been one of our best visitors.”

Creative Connections

Barry taught her students — published professors and students new to the craft alike — using creativity exercises she learned at 19 and has used daily since.

The author’s approach of placing oneself in the image to be captured, free-writing for eight minutes and not critiquing stories read aloud left each participant with several newly written short stories by the end of class. In addition to their stories, many left with a new-found interest and ability to capture their mental images with words.

“I learned that no idea I have is stupid, so when I'm writing, I should never erase what I've written down but instead build on it,” says Valerie Williams, a senior English major who attended the workshop and several of Barry’s other visits on campus.  “Lynda was an excellent artist-in-residence because she’s candid about her experiences and thoughts, which made people feel comfortable tapping into their own personal thoughts and experiences in their writing and art.”

One of the many participants in Barry’s creativity workshop was second-year art student Trudy Umstead, who said the approach reminded her of voice and movement classes.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, but it’s interesting and I’ll definitely try it again,” says Umstead. “This was a great opportunity.”

 “I love doing these workshops and hearing so many stories,” says Barry, who was recently profiled in the New York Times. “I never hear a story that bores me and it’s so hard to believe that they were written in just eight minutes.”

Artist-in-Residence Program to Expand

The Artist-in-Residence Program, which is sponsored by the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the Center for Arts & Ideas; the English Department; the Gender Studies program; and the Art Department brings up to four artists to campus annually to work with students, says Paul Marion, co-director of the center.

For information, contact Paul Marion or Jehanne-Marie Gavarini or visit the program’s website.