March/Apr. 2017 Featured Artist:
Constance Alexander is a 2003 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship recipient and 2014 winner of the Governor’s Award in the Arts for the Media category.I’ll never forget our first reading lesson at Saint Francis School in Metuchen, N.J. Sister Aloysius handed out copies of our primer and proceeded to read aloud in a cadence shrill enough to curdle milk. Ann and David, the stars of the story, had the icy good looks of androids. Their parents were flawless too. Even the dog, Spot, was vapid.
I hated them — and I thought I hated reading — but that changed when I got my own library card. Then in fourth grade, I won a poetry contest. That is the year I became a writer. The arts also inspired me. The lady next door, a concert-grade pianist, gave lessons to kids like me during the day. At night, she played solo for hours. I imagined her aloft with her Steinway, spreading Beethoven and Chopin into the heavens, like a fragment from a Chagall painting.
In high school, I favored English and history, and wrote a column in the school newspaper. My love of music never wavered, so when I went to college, I majored in music education. Once I realized my future might entail preparing the band to march on the football field, I switched to English.
My professional career began in teaching, but a move to AT&T offered the official title of “writer.” In my free time, I wrote poetry, and landed occasional freelance gigs for the New York Times. My creative turning point came after attending the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, when I began plotting my escape from corporate life.
I started my own business consulting practice in 1984. In 1988, I got married and moved to Kentucky with my husband, a visual artist and Kentucky native. Murray provided a nurturing environment. The rich cultural heritage included Murray State University, an active community theater, an art guild, public library, civic music program and a fledgling dance company. The Kentucky Arts Council and Kentucky Foundation for Women offered many opportunities for individual artists. WKMS-FM, our National Public Radio affiliate, linked our rural region to the rest of the world.
Nearly 30 years later, I credit our move to Kentucky as the spark that illuminated my creative horizons. I
have been writing an award-winning newspaper column for 28 years, have written and produced radio
documentaries, plays, poems, stories and articles. Kentucky publishers — Finishing Line Press, MotesBooks
and Old Seventy Creek Press — have published two chapbooks, two poetry collections and a memoir.
With skills in business and writing, I have received grants that fund creative community projects, using the arts to focus on timely topics including women’s health, the uninsured, adults with disabilities, end-of-life, and LGBTQ issues. Now more than ever, I see the arts as a way to encourage public dialogue and inspire meaningful change. I have no idea what route I might have taken had I not come to Kentucky, but I have never been happier or more creative.
Page last updated: March 1, 2017
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