A Letter from Rob Arnold, our Acting Interim ED

Dear friend,

You’ve heard by now that I’ve been appointed Acting Interim Executive Director following Tree Swenson’s resignation. Taking a leadership role in a time of transition and transformation is intimidating and complex, and I’m learning as I go. But I’m embracing this moment, as I hope we all are, with an open heart and a willingness to listen, and a goal toward healing.

I started working events at Hugo House just under three years ago, but I first came to Hugo House when I was a young poetry student. That a place like Hugo House existed was powerful for me. It gave me permission to be a writer. I didn’t know at the time how difficult it would be for a person of my background—an adoptee, an Indigenous Pacific Islander whose ties to ancestry were cut by a racist foster care system, a working-class kid who held two jobs to pay his own way through college—to succeed in the literary world. All I knew was my voice. At the time, it felt like enough.

It wasn’t enough. Barriers to access for folks like me remain in place throughout the literary and publishing worlds, barriers that get replicated and sometimes magnified in writing and arts organizations across the country. Hugo House, as we’ve seen, is no different. I love Hugo House. I know it can be better.

And it will be better. My colleagues on staff have been hard at work building systems of accountability to reduce harms. They’ve been digging into the data to find the patterns of exclusion and brainstorming creative solutions to disrupt those patterns. They’ve been leading with their values, with their open hearts and their willingness to listen. At the same time, they’ve been working tirelessly to keep Hugo House open and available as a resource to writers from all backgrounds.

This is a pivotal time for Hugo House and for our literary community. But Hugo House is here, programming is still happening, classes still running, and students of all ages still learning the power of technique to amplify their voices.

And if you’re still here with us, as I hope you are, here are a few dates and notices to keep in mind:

You have my deepest gratitude for the warm welcome into this work, and for your presence and continued passion for this communion of the word that we all engage in. I hope you will join us as we continue to build the Hugo House we all deserve.

In community,

Rob Arnold