Artistic collaboration between photographer and poet celebrating Helen Keller opens June 18 at Helen Keller Public Library

By  | June 12, 2018 | Filed under: News

MONTGOMERY – Florence photographer Wayne Sides and poet Jeanie Thompson (formerly of Decatur) have teamed up to celebrate the adult life of Helen Keller in photography and poems.  On June 18 at the Helen Keller Public Library (HKPL) in Tuscumbia, Sides will debut I Wake from a Dreamhis installation of photography and collage that was inspired by Thompson’s The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller. The free reception on June 18 is from 6pm-8pm and is open to the public.

Thompson will spend a week in Tuscumbia as the library-sponsored Poet in Residence during the Helen Keller Festival week.  Her library presentation, based on the research and writing of her poetry collection The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller is Wednesday, June 20, from 2-4 p.m.

According to HKPL Director Tammie Collins, who invited Thompson to deliver the library’s annual Helen Keller lecture, Thompson mentioned that her artistic collaborator and friend Wayne Sides, recently retired from University of North AL, was creating some photographic images in relation to the poems. From there the idea of the installation grew, Collins said.

“It will take up half of the public programming space at the back of the library and will be on view through the summer,” Collins said. “I Wake from a Dream” will be on view through the end of July.

“We are excited to share this unique collaboration during the Helen Keller festival when so many travel to Tuscumbia to celebrate a famous Alabamian’s life.” Collins added that both dates are designated as official Alabama 200 Bicentennial events and appear on the state’s official calendar.


Jay Lamar, Executive Director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, which is mid-way through its three-year run, said that recognizing Keller is important because she was more than a public figure. “Most people know Helen Keller as the phantom child Annie Sullivan led into language and self-awareness in a miraculous moment at the Ivy Green water pump.  In ‘The Myth of Water’ and now through Sides’ installation, people will have a deeper understanding of Keller’s contribution to Alabama’s presence on a world stage and also the depth of her heart and mind.”

Jeanie Thompson

“Keller published at least 14 books, gave countless speeches and wrote letters to government officials and world leaders on behalf of the deaf-blind,” Lamar said. “Her influence can’t fully be measured, but it is depicted in these poems and images by two Alabama artists, and very appropriate for the Alabama 200 continuing celebration.”

“Jeanie Thompson will be in Tuscumbia from Monday through Friday as Poet in Residence (June 18-22) to share her poems, and her admiration for Helen Keller, with readers, writers, and civic leaders in Tuscumbia and the Shoals area,” Collins said. “We hope the public will attend one of the library events and also stop by to meet her at Coldwater Books on Friday, June 22.”


Wayne Sides

The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller took Thompson seven years to research and complete. It was published in 2016 by The University of Alabama Press. She and Sides first collaborated on “Litany for a Vanishing Landscape,” a photography, poetry, and sculptural installation that was funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts in the early

1990s and toured the state to a dozen locations. They have worked together on other projects including the book jackets of Thompson’s five collections of poetry.


Thompson is executive director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The Forum’s mission is to promote writers, writing and the literary arts in Alabama.  She is also an award-winning poet and teaches in the Spalding University low-residency MFA Writing Program (Louisville KY)

Sides recently retired from The University of Alabama where he was an art department photography faculty member for more than 30 years. A graduate of the University of Alabama, and the Pratt Institute in New York NY, his work has been recognized throughout the county and internationally since the 1970s.

Complete schedule for Poet in Residence at HKPL, June 18-22.

511 North Main Street | TuscumbiaAlabama 35674, during the week of the Helen Keller Festival. June 18-22, 2018.

Monday, June 18: Opening reception for “I Wake from a Dream” art installation by Wayne Sides featuring images from “The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller.” 6:00 pm – 8:00pm.

Wednesday, June 202-4 pm: Helen Keller Public Library program, “The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller.”  Reading and book discussion. Book-signing follows.

Friday, June 2211:00 am – 1:00 pm: Book signing at Coldwater Books, 101 West. 6th Street, Tuscumbia, 35674.

Thompson will speak to the Tuscumbia Kiwanis Club on Tuesday, June 19 at 12 noon and to the Tuscumbia Lions Club at 5 pm. She addresses the Tuscumbia Civitans onThursday, June 21.


For further information about the Helen Keller Public Library events contact Tammie Collins, 256-383-7065.

Media Release/Andi Martin/Marketing and Communications/Alabama Bicentennial Commission

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