Chautauqua Institution News & Announcements

Atom Atkinson Named Director of Literary Arts

Chautauqua Institution today announced the appointment of Atom Atkinson of Interlochen, Michigan, as the new Director of Literary Arts effective September 1, 2017. Atkinson is currently an instructor of creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy and Summer Camp.


As Director of Literary Arts, Atkinson will report to David Griffith, the incoming Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, and will serve as a senior member of the Department of Education and as an entrepreneurial and collaborative partner in strengthening and deepening the value of the literary arts program and experience for Chautauqua Institution stakeholders. The Director of Literary Arts manages and provides administrative leadership and hands-on involvement with the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, the literary journal Chautauqua, and the national literary Chautauqua Prize, and works collaboratively with Youth Programs to choose and administer the Young Readers program.


Additionally, Atkinson will participate as a member of a collaborative team in planning Chautauqua’s core nine-week season and serves as a strategist in implementing the vision of the new President eager to expand the reach and length of Chautauqua’s impact, especially through digital engagement of the literary arts.

“Both Dave and Atom will bring enormous talent and inspired leadership to the Department of Education for both the Youth experience and the Literary Arts,” said Sherra Babcock, Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “Atom's experience as a working poet, a gifted teacher, a program developer, and a community activist and organizer will bring Chautauqua’s literary arts tradition and programs to new levels of excellence.”

Atkinson served as a writing instructor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, as a graduate instructor at the University of Utah and Louisiana State University, and as the Artist in Residence for Creative Writing at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School. Their literary arts programming experience spans a variety of genres and forums, including the creation of Line Assembly, a five-week national tour of free, public poetry workshops and readings. Atkinson’s accolades include the Academy of American Poets Larry Levis Prize, the Robert Penn Warren MFA Thesis Award, for their poetry manuscript Private Dick, and the Kent Gramm MFA Nonfiction Award.

"I'm honored to steward the literary traditions at the heart of Chautauqua's mission and history, especially in light of Sherra Babcock's extraordinary record of service to the literary arts,” Atkinson said. “I look forward to working with President Hill, incoming Vice President David Griffith, and the entire Chautauqua staff and community to continue imagining the ways the literary arts can house and generate urgently needed, socially engaged conversations and practices."

Atkinson is pursuing a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing at the University of Utah. They earned an MFA in creative writing with a minor in women’s and gender studies from Louisiana State University and a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing with a minor in drama from Carnegie Mellon University.

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