Social Distancing at Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

Surrounded by works that inspire him, Jake Munson searches for the right words in his screenplay submission, a new category in the Tournament of Writers this year. Photo by Syd Bastos.

Syd Bastos, President of the VCAC Board of Directors

How does an active arts center continue to engage the community it loves and still be socially responsible to the health of all it serves under the shadow of uncertainty with COVID-19?  After indefinitely postponing five events with the Destination Venezuela program in March, the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center knew it had to rethink the next few events.

The Tournament of Writers, a local writing competition started by Deb Christiansen of Schoolcraft in 2015, was fully adopted by the VCAC this year. It was scheduled to open April 1 with events that included a good deal of human contact from April through June. According to Jake Munson, program committee chair and board member of the VCAC, “We knew that this competition could provide an important creative outlet for people of all ages as we live through the physical isolation necessary to contain this epidemic. We had to figure out how we could offer this program!”

After changes, the Tournament opened officially April 1 and will close May 30, a month later than initially planned. In the past, contestants could submit their entries at their local libraries. With the suspension of library operations, contestants will have to either mail or email their entries. Also, because Covid-19 has affected the employment of many people in the community, the VCAC Board of Directors approved waiving entry fees this year.  With social distancing rules in place, plans for two writing clinics at the VCAC had to be scrubbed.

Winners will be announced June 23. In the past, all contestants were invited to hear the announcements live. This year, the VCAC will broadcast the announcement via Facebook Live. The Book Release and Signing Celebration is scheduled for September 15 and will be postponed if necessary to assure health and safety of the community and to comply with local, state and federal authority requirements and recommendations.

For the first time, cash prizes will be awarded to winners, with a total of $625 to be awarded with six genres and four age divisions and a new award, “Judges Choice,” picked by the judges from all first, second and third place winners and announced at the Book Release and Signing Celebration.

In anticipation of a higher number of submissions, the VCAC is also looking for more judges. Judges will be provided with a short training session and can expect to review up to 20 entries. Judges will be able to perform their reviews in the safety of their homes.

Those who have participated in the Tournament in the past will want to review the age divisions and genres. You can learn more about the Tournament at the VCAC website,, where you will find the FAQs (frequently asked questions) and judging criteria. Works can be submitted at or mailed to the VCAC at PO Box 209, Vicksburg, MI 49097. Contact Syd Bastos at (269) 501-1347 or with any questions about the program.

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