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First Person Arts Goes Nationwide To Find The Best "In These Hard Times" Stories

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- First Person Arts is going across to the nation to find the best videos, photographs and stories that define how individuals, families, and communities are managing during these hard times. The contest, First Person America: In These Hard Times, invites artists to document how this generation of Americans is coping with one of the hardest economic periods since the Great Depression. The website for the contest is at

First Person Arts hopes to gather stories from all 50 states. Inspired by the artists of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), who documented the experiences of Americans in every part of the country, First Person Arts is asking artists to help create the first draft of the history of this era by capturing, in photographs, on video, or in writing, the stories of America and its people during these difficult times.

One of the unexpected outcomes of the Great Depression was a decade of creative outpouring that covered the U.S. map. Under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), thousands of artists fanned across the country documenting the experiences of everyday Americans as they worked to maintain their families, their communities, and their way of life in the face of a national economic crisis.

First Person Arts seeks short memoirs and essays, documentary films, and photographs that depict Americans from all walks of life. They are interested in stories that are unique to families, communities, towns, and regions that capture the idiosyncratic things that are happening - the slices of life that, taken together, will give us a First Person picture of America in 2009 – the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

Writing submissions can be up to 2,500 words. Film and video submissions need to be up to five minutes, excluding credits. Photography submissions may include up to five photographs, with or without accompanying text of up to 100 words per image. All submissions to need to be into First Person Arts by June 30, 2009. Finalists in each category (writing, film, and photography) will be featured on the First Person Arts website ( and at the First Person Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art, November 4-8, 2009. First place winners in each genre will be invited to Philadelphia to participate in the festival. A cash prize will be awarded to the best story overall.

Judges for the writing competition are Laurence J. Kirshbaum, of LJK Literary Management and the former CEO of Time Warner Book Group; Peter Orner, author and Associate Professor of Creative Writing Professor at San Francisco State University, and Jill Porter, a former columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

Judging the film category is Joseph Garrity, a Production Designer (Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind) and Senior Filmmaker-in-Residence at the AFI Conservatory; Allen Sabinson Dean, The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University and a former executive at A&E, Miramax, TNT, ABC, Showtime and NBC; and Ruth Perlmutter the Artistic Director, Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival; and Co-Director, ONE FILM, in partnership with One Book, One Philadelphia, a project of the Office of the Mayor and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The photography judges are Martin McNamara the Director of Gallery 339; John Pultz, Associate Professor of Art at University of Kansas and a former curator of photography at the Spencer Museum of Art; and Lynne Honickman Founder and President, The Honickman Foundation, former president, contributing editor and trustee to the Aperture Foundation; and trustee and co-chair of Photo Council, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

First Person Arts is a nonprofit organization and producer of the annual First Person Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art and other programs that tap into the power of personal stories and speak to diverse audiences, including people whose voices are not often heard. First Person Arts is guided by the belief that the sharing of personal experience is a powerful way for people to celebrate uniqueness, bridge differences, and find common ground.

First Person Arts | Works Progress Administration |  |

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