Gloucester Writer’s Center opens new chapter | News

The Gloucester Writers Center is once again under reconstruction and so, it is pleased to announce, is its staff.

Adam Tessier, who last week joined the center as program director following a 15-year career at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, says he’s “the lucky one in this scenario.” Terry Weber, the center’s newly installed manager, begs to differ.

Weber, herself a writer, marketing professional, and long-time volunteer at the little house at 126 East Main St., says the luck is all hers.

“I am so excited to be working with Adam,” she said. “He brings the kind of new energy and ideas the center needs for a post pandemic reset.”

And then there’s that background, those 15 years at the MFA where, as head of interpretation, Tessier says he “shaped the way stories got told in the galleries.”

Tessier came to the MFA straight out of college. He was 22, and — armed with a master degree in poetry from Bennington — he started carving a niche for himself “at the intersection of audience and story.”

“What a place to grow up,” he says of the MFA. “Of course, it was a mega institution, and this (the GWC) is a smaller ship, but the mission is bigger than the house.”

The house, not much larger than a shack really, is the center’s home base. Once the home of Gloucester’s late and much loved poet laureate, Vincent Ferrini, it was, until Ferrini’s death in 2007 at the age of 95, a vibrant hub for artists and waterfront literati — most notably, Ferrini’s great friend, Gloucester’s legendary poet Charles Olson .

When people talk of Gloucester’s “colorful characters” well, they don’t come any more colorful than these two.

For Tessier, a scholar and huge fan of both writer’s poetry, the history of the little house is nothing short of sacred. “To me, Gloucester’s literary legacy is every bit an equal to its artistic legacy,” he says. A long-time Beverly resident, he was familiar with the center and intrigued by the job opening.

But what clinched the deal was meeting the center’s co-founder and executive director, Henry Ferrini, the nephew of Vincent Ferrini.

“I am in awe of Henry,” says Tessier, “I admire him and his work tremendously.”

An internationally known documentary filmmaker, Henry Ferrini was the driving force behind the ambitious raising of money to buy and renovate his uncle’s former home.

That was back in 2008, when, following his uncle’s death, the little house was in ruins.

Weber, who started volunteering at the center while the house was being renovated, recalls donating its first working toilet. A story, she says, “Henry always likes to tell at gatherings.”

There have been countless gatherings at the center since. As a self-described “working writer’s center in a working town,” The Gloucester Writers Center has, under the direction of Henry Ferrini and a small army of volunteers and staff, rolled out program after inventive program. Its classes, lectures, library and events, including the hugely popular Fish Tales, draw all levels of local scribes, from novices to novelists.

And then along came the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic hit hard, says Weber.

“Some programs adapted well to Zoom, some didn’t,” she says.

But COVID-19 also gave the center time to “hit the reset button and think of new post-COVID programming,” she says; new ideas, audiences and venues, including, in the warm months, Cape Ann’s beautiful, naturally socially distanced great outdoors.

“Imagine,” says Adam Tessier, “sitting under a tree, writing a poem. “

Tessier says he likes to think of himself “as having the soul of an artist.” But, he says, his “real strength of him is administrative” and his goal of him for the center is “to make it sustainable moving forward into the future.”

“You don’t have to be literary to enjoy literature,” he says. “There are new lanes we can work in that haven’t been worked before.” At the MFA, Tessier says he worked at “partnering with the audience… listening to them, co-creating with them in a partnership that reflects as well as serves the community.”

That, he says, is a model he plans to follow.

Both he and Weber would like to see more children’s programming, and new ideas are taking shape.

He’s too new to the job, says Tessier, for sharing what those ideas might be.

But stay tuned.

As Vincent Ferrini’s pal Charles Olson once famously wrote, “What does not change is the will to change.”

Joann MacKenzie may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or jomackenzie@gloucestertimes.com.

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