Westchester County Executive George Latimer and ArtsWestchester together announced this morning that Phylisha Villanueva of Yonkers will be Westchester County’s newest Poet Laureate.
Villanueva will begin a three-year term this month, taking the helm from the inaugural laureate, B.K. Fischer. In this role, the Belizean-American poet, author and cultural activist intends to conduct ekphrastic writing workshops, a style of writing that responds to visual art, thereby creating a unique dialogue between the two art forms. She will also organize poetry slams and other open mic events in the County.
Through public programming, the Westchester Poet Laureate program aims to promote poetry as an artistic medium that can offer an avenue for self-reflection; provide a path that leads to the discussion of broader topics; reach and relate to diverse audiences; and enact positive social change to Westchester residents’ lives and communities.
Villanueva’s own written work focuses on identity, resilience, women’s empowerment and black culture, among other topics. She specializes in Community Arts Development, co-founded the Yonkers Writing Group and, as a teen, founded the first teen open mic in downtown Yonkers, which lasted for five years. She is a teaching artist for ArtsWestchester, and a member of both the Jazz and Poetry Choir Collective, and Tesoro, an international women’s poet collective.
ArtsWestchester will partner with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF)’s Culpeper Arts & Culture Program, which will provide significant support through public-facing programming, artist collaborations, and event logistics.