Chautauqua Institution today announced the appointment of #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Kwame Alexander to the role of Michael I. Rudell Artistic Director of Literary Arts. Alexander will also serve as the Inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Chautauqua.
A poet, educator, publisher, and Emmy-nominated producer, Alexander is the author of 40 books, including Why Fathers Cry at Night: A Memoir; The Caldecott Medal and Newbery Honor-winning picture book The Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson; Becoming Muhammad Ali, co-authored with James Patterson; and the Newbery Medal-winning middle grade novel, The Crossover, now a television series on Disney+. His books have long been a staple on lists for both the Institution’s Young Readers program and its Battle of the Books. Alexander, the former Innovator-in-Residence at the American School in London, made his Chautauqua debut in a week dedicated to “The Life of Literature” in August 2023.
As director of Chautauqua’s Literary Arts program, which has its roots in the 145-year-old Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC), Alexander will provide strategic vision and leadership for all Literary Arts programs, with a focus on amplifying Chautauqua’s position as a national force in the literary arts. In addition to the CLSC, Chautauqua Literary Arts programs include the Writers’ Center, Writers’ Festival, Poetry Makerspace, and two annual literary prizes, The Chautauqua Prize and the Chautauqua Janus Prize.
Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer Deborah Sunya Moore said Alexander’s expertise and networks will help the Institution realize a vision for the Literary Arts as a key driver of patron engagement. “Kwame quickly fell in love with both the place and community Chautauqua currently is, and the aspiration of who we want to be and serve. We are delighted that he will lean into our shared aspirations to provide extraordinary learning opportunities and experiences for a broadening community of people that love literature, including those who are honing their own writing craft,” Sunya Moore said.
“My experience at Chautauqua last summer went beyond impactful,” Alexander said. “The bookish me found the conversations creatively life-giving. The people I met, several of whom I’ve remained engaged with, were incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt with support for my mission to change the world, one word at a time. My muse was so moved by the experience that I tried to bottle up all that inspiration and take it home. Accepting this position, this honor, is me opening the bottle and pouring into this place — this community — all the imagination, innovation, and literary inventiveness I can dream up to further inspire the best in humanity.”
In addition to providing leadership for Chautauqua’s existing literary arts programs, Alexander will also support new initiatives, including Chautauqua Travels. He will serve as the trip expert for the 2024 Literary Ireland departure.
Alexander begins his service to Chautauqua on December 1, 2023.
Learn more about the Chautauqua Institition and Chautauqua Literary Arts.