Calling all writers: Ekphrasis contest inspired by Exhibition of Oil Painters of America |

Calling all writers: Ekphrasis contest inspired by Exhibition of Oil Painters of America

How to enter “The Painted Words” contest requirements:
  • Choose a painting in the Exhibition of Oil Painters of America at Steamboat Art Museum, which is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
  • Use the piece as inspiration for an original story that is no longer than 750 words.
  • Fill out an entry form and submit the written piece by 5 p.m. Aug. 9 at Steamboat Art Museum.
If you go What: “The Painted Words” awards ceremony and reception When: 5 p.m. Aug. 16 Where: Steamboat Art Museum, 807 Lincoln Ave.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Staring into the depths of the brush strokes, lost in the textures, the currents of color — there’s a story behind the painting’s frozen façade.

That story is left to the imagination of contestants in Steamboat Art Museum’s newest endeavor, ekphrasis, defined by the use of words to comment on a piece of visual art.

“Whether a musical piece at Strings Music Festival or pieces of art, it’s all about the story that gives meaning to people,” Steamboat Art Museum Executive Director Betse Grassby said.

The museum and Off the Beaten Path bookstore are calling all writers and creatives to participate in “The Painted Words” event in honor of Susan de Wardt, a longtime local writer who recently died.

The event prompts participants to choose one of the 250 paintings hanging in the 27th annual Exhibition of Oil Painters of America as a source of inspiration for an original story. The idea was to create a fun, engaging contest and event before the exhibit is over Sept. 3, Grassby said.

The only requirements are to write a piece no longer than 750 words and submit it by 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 at the Steamboat Art Museum.

Sue Krall will lead judging for the contest with a few Off the Beaten Path staff members. Prizes include cash, a handmade journal by Susan de Wardt, and gift certificates for Off the Beaten Path. There also will be an awards ceremony and reception with selected readings at 5 p.m. Aug. 16 at the museum.

Grassby said one of the earliest and most commonly cited forms of the word “ekphrasis” occurs in “The Iliad,” where Homer provided a discursive account of the elaborate scenes embossed on the shield of Achilles.

The idea for the event started when Paul Bonifield walked into the gallery last month and said, “I have to come in and see this. There are so many wonderful stories.”

“He’s the one who sparked this idea,” Grassby said. “Then the word ‘ekphrasis’ comes from Susan, who I was able to spend some time with and talk about the idea. Then she said that word. I had never heard it before, but it fits perfectly.”

The museum has already received several submissions with seven days to go.

“When you look at the variety of how writers look at a piece, the stories are poignant and whimsical, to fanciful, to pull-at-your-heart-strings, to far out there. It’s been incredibly fascinating to see how writers are inspired and where their minds go,” Grassby said.

To fill out an entry form or for more information, visit Steamboat Art Museum or Off the Beaten Path.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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