Louise Steinman: In Her Own Words

by Adam Leipzig
From: Cultural Weekly

Louise-Steinman-1020x500Since her abrupt firing on August 27, former ALOUD director Louise Steinman has mostly been quiet. She declined to comment for the media, and did not seek press attention. Meantime, the Library Foundation issued a series of statements and hired a new director of public programs.

Cultural Weekly has covered the ALOUD controversy extensively; I reported the story in-depth, did an interview with Foundation president Ken Brecher, and we published statements from the Library Foundation and the Ad Hoc Committee, which was formed in reaction to the firing of Steinman and ALOUD associate director Maureen Moore.

On December 14, the Library Foundation included this statement in its member newsletter: “Thank you for joining us for the fall season of ALOUD. We will be dark for the winter season. The Library Foundation is taking time to re-envision its public program offerings. We are experimenting, asking questions, and trying new things. New announcements will be coming soon.”

Steinman has now decided to share her observations. In this interview, Steinman discusses some of the highlights of 25 years of ALOUD programming, her views on LA’s cultural landscape, and the specifics of how she was fired.

Adam Leipzig: First, how are you doing?

Louise Steinman: I got away this fall on an arts residency at the Ucross Foundation, which was really great, getting away from this situation: to be with very loving, creative artists, and to be in nature, which is really restorative. I did a lot of visual work, a lot of drawing and collage, and I’m working on a number of essays. I’m certainly better than I was three months ago, but it’s a process that’s going to take awhile.

AL: You’re a fixture of Los Angeles’ cultural landscape. How do you perceive it today?

LS: There are an endless number of paths to discover in LA’s cultural community and fusions to be met. It’s strong; it’s certainly struggling for space and affordability so that artists can afford to live in LA. In terms of the literary community, to which I can speak the most from my experience over the years, it’s a very generous community to each other. There’s a feeling of caring, of going to hear each other’s work. It’s not just all about what contracts you’ve got or how big was your advance, but people talk about each other’s work.

In the aftermath of what happened with ALOUD I felt a real circle of concern and support. It’s been really extraordinary. I’ve never experienced anything like this, truly a sense of people feeling themselves as a community, and saying what their values are in terms of knowing how important the library is to them, how important it is to have the space in the heart of the city that is safe and open for everyone.

AL: Were you surprised by the level of support?

LS: Yes. I could never have dreamed that it would take on a life of its own like that.

AL: In the course of doing ALOUD, did you find a shift in authors or publishers? Because the publishing industry has gone through a massive transformation over the past twenty-five years.

LS: Those relationships are really built on trust. I think what people found very special about ALOUD was that we curated the event for the authors as well as for the audience, you know? I remember taking Verlyn Klinkenborg to walk on the LA River; he didn’t know the LA River existed. Or walking with Orhan Pamuk through the streets of downtown LA. LA became a kind of a character for these authors if they were here long enough to make that happen. Also, over the years the ALOUD audience’s sense of itself matured, as did kinds of questions they would ask. There was a kind of bar that was set. People had a very strong and stimulating experience coming to the LA Public Library, and seeing LA through the eyes of that place, that institution, and the people surrounding it. Read Rest of Article Here

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