Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, December 7, 1998

Poet shares art with LPHS students


Lester Prairie ­ Diego Vazquez Jr., poet and novelist, was on hand last week at Lester Prairie to teach high school students about the "reality" of poetry.

Vazquez also took time to speak to community arts advocates on his experiences as a writer, and a member of an arts advocacy program.

The poet commented on the importance of arts education.

"I think it's critical. It's a critical necessity in the education of our children," he said.

Vazquez, who was born in Chicago and raised in El Paso, Texas, had students from grades 8-12 writing poetry.

Vazquez said that for the students "it was a first introduction as to feeling that they were writing their own poems. It's like introducing foreign language."

As for interesting the students, Vazquez said, "I think I have an advantage in that sense ­ just the fact that I am something new in the class. And poetry itself doesn't sound that exciting, but generally, once we get going, I can show them things. Part of the fun for me is showing them that poetry can be exciting."

Vazquez is part of a program called COMPAS, which sends artists from all the humanities to do residencies in schools. His residency was organized by Supt. James Redfield and Lester Prairie High School's English department.

Vazquez spent the past week accepting submissions for an anthology which COMPAS published once a year in December. The anthology is made up of the students who experience the residency, and one submission will be chosen at a later date from Lester Prairie.

The anthologies are distributed to schools who had residencies and are sold at the COMPAS office at The Landmark Center in St. Paul.

Vazquez was also on hand to speak to members of the Comprehensive Art Planning Program (CAPP). Members are looking to advocate arts in Lester Prairie and asked many questions of Vazquez about his experience teaching and with COMPAS.

CAPP is a statewide program and the Lester Prairie group is in a stage called pre-CAPP, in which it is planning for the needs of the community and investigating how other CAPP groups are working.

According to Joy Lipe, co-chair of CAPP, "Our mission is to increase awareness and opportunities for arts here in Lester Prairie for the students and the whole community."

CAPP is sponsored in part by the Minnesota Center for the Arts, Minnesota Alliance for Arts Education, and the state arts board. However, this funding is only for investigating the possibilities. The expesnes of residencies, such as Vazquez's, and other events will have to be provided by fundraisers until the group gets out of its pre-CAPP phase.

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