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Issue Date: July 2006 Issue

Words on Wheels

Jim Vickers

When I first read the ad for the poetry contest, I knew I had the perfect piece to submit. “Fireflies” originally appeared in the July 1995 issue of the children’s magazine Spider. Just six lines long and strongly visual, the accompanying illustration was bright and cheerful: a young girl in an orange-striped shirt standing in a cornfield with arms upraised, reaching for the lights all around her.

The image meshed beautifully with the words, targeting Spider’s 6- to 9-year-old readers. But I had not actually written “Fireflies” with children in mind. I knew it had potential for a larger audience, and RTA’s “Moving Minds” project seemed perfect.

Sponsored by the Regional Transit Authority, the Poets’ & Writers’ League of Greater Cleveland the Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), “Moving Minds: Verse and Vision,” is an effort to bring art into the public sphere. My poem, along with 11 others, was assigned to students of Kent State University’s School of Visual Communication Design enrolled in a course called Glyphix, actually a fully functioning commercial design studio.

Johanna Armstrong, president of AIGA’s student chapter, received my card to illustrate. Subtly elegant, her cornfield is a silhouette against the cobalt sky, the stars and fireflies are warm but distant, conveying peace, harmony, serenity. This image too meshed beautifully with the words, but created an atmosphere that reflected the calm I had originally intended.

“It was amazing that although the students had no interaction with the poets, we were able to visually interpret what the poet was trying to communicate,” Johanna later told me. “What a wonderful interaction of two different types of art forms.”

Clever planning made the May 10 launch party at the RTA offices an exciting event, poets and illustrators meeting for the first time. When I met Johanna and saw her work, I knew something special had been accomplished. Though still appropriate for children, “Fireflies” was now perfectly suited for the much more varied audience of commuters.

And since this joining together of literary and visual artists could not be a complete experience without the audience we came together for, the poem is no longer ours, Cleveland. It’s yours. — Paula Lambert

Mansfield resident Paula Lambert’s “Fireflies” is one of 12 poems that will be displayed on RTA trains and buses for the next year. To learn more about the “Moving Minds: Verse and Vision” program, visit

Seen & Heard

It isn’t in Cleveland, but what the Columbus-based Girlz Rhythm ’n Rock Camp lacks in proximity, it makes up for in musical appeal — enough so to snag $1 from every ticket purchased for Pearl Jam’s sold-out May show at The Q. The Seattle band adds a $2 charge to ticket prices to help organizations in and around the places it performs. Camp founder and director Suzie Simpson says the band was looking for an Ohio organization similar to the Rock ’n’ Roll
Camp for Girls it supports in Oregon. The weeklong Columbus camp serves girls ages 10 to 18 and offers classes, jam sessions and an end-of-the-week performance. “[The band] sent us an e-mail through our Web site,” Simpson says. “I thought someone was playing a joke on me.” Pearl Jam spokeswoman Nicole Vandenberg says the other $1 per ticket from the Cleveland show will go to the band’s Vitalogy Foundation for future donation.

Web Sighting

It looks like a pants-wearing gumdrop that hops from level to level collecting pencils and notebooks, but Urban Community School’s “Yoocee” online game at has helped raise awareness about the private Cleveland grade school as it enters the final stretch of its $16 million capital campaign. “We were looking for a unique way to let people know what we’ve been able to do,” says development director Dan Gunther. After he talked to a school supporter whose company develops Web games, “Yoocee” was born. Even though the single-click control is a bit too simple, nice graphics and a leader board that displays the top player’s name begs visitors to return. We’re going to get you, “Peter R from Cleveland.” We’re going to get you.

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