The Humanities encompass oral history, spoken word, and literature which are the cornerstones of all societies and something we seek to celebrate and elevate in Arlington. Through our series of unique programs including the Moving Words competition and Arlington County’s Poet Laureate position, we provide the tools to support artists working in the Humanities while inspiring a generation of new ones.

Moving Words

Moving Words logo

Moving Words is a program that makes poetry a part of daily life for commuters riding Arlington Transit (ART) by replacing advertising placards inside public buses with poems by local poets and Arlington Public School students. This year-round, two-part program includes an adult and student competition. Moving Words was launched in 1999 during National Poetry Month and is sponsored by Arlington Transit, the Cultural Affairs Division of Arlington County, and the Arlington Public Schools Humanities Project.

Moving Words Adult

Moving Words makes poetry a part of daily life for commuters riding Arlington Transit (ART) by replacing advertising placards inside public buses with poems by local poets. Moving Words was launched in 1999 during National Poetry Month and is sponsored by Arlington Transit and the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division of Arlington Economic Development.

For more information and to submit your poems for the current competition, please visit the Moving Words Adult Competition page.

Moving Words Student

The Moving Words Student Poetry Competition features poems by ten Arlington Public School students inside the buses from October through March. The student competition is the culmination of the Pick a Poet project, a partnership between Arlington Cultural Affairs and the Arlington Public Schools Humanities Project, which places professional poets in APS classrooms.

Winning Poem Archives

Poems from the current competition can be found on ART buses traveling in Arlington County and using the links below. All poems from the previous years are archived on the Arlington County Commuter Services’ website.

Adult Competition Winning Poems
Student Competition Winning Poems

Poet Laureate

Arlington County’s Poet Laureate serves as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts and works to advance Arlingtonians’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms. The Poet Laureate represents Arlington’s commitment to fostering a creative environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and community participation.

Award-winning poet Courtney LeBlanc is the third Poet Laureate of Arlington County. During her appointment, she serves as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts, working to raise Arlingtonians’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms.

Courtney LeBlanc is author of the full-length collections Her Whole Bright Life, winner of the Jack McCarthy Book Prize (Write Bloody, 2023), Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat, 2021), and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2020). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press, and is a fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts (2022). Ms. LeBlanc’s appointment follows that of Arlington’s previous poets laureate, Katherine E. Young and Holly Karapetkova.

“Poetry is a dynamic form, taking the language of its time and pushing its expressive limits. And social media is changing the way we use language,” Cultural Affairs Director Michelle Isabelle-Stark said, “it’s now easier than ever to write and share poems. Our new Poet Laureate will work with our community to awaken the poet in all of us.”

Read more about the Poet Laureate position here.

Visual Verse

Visual Verse

(clockwise from top left) U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Arlington Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova, 2020 DC Youth Poet Laureate Marjan Naderi, Virginia Poet Laureate Luisa A. Igloria

The Nation’s 23rd Poet Laureate Joy Harjo joins Arlington Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova and two other regional poets laureate whose poems will be projected onto large, highly-visible edifices as part of Visual Verse. Their work will be brought to life by noted artist Robin Bell.

Using the latest projection technology, Visual Verse brings a diverse array of poets literally into the public square. Poetry is an art form found in all cultures, languages and countries. As part of our ongoing response to COVID-19, Arlington Arts strives to foster community connection to arts and culture using delivery models that are safe in a time when traditional gatherings are not possible.

“We are excited to bring poetry directly to the Arlington community during this unprecedented time,” notes Arlington Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova. “2020 has been a challenging year in so many ways, and we hope that Visual Verse can provide words of beauty, hope and solace for the people in our community and beyond.

Drivers and pedestrians will be inspired by the towering words of four poets: United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo; Virginia’s Poet Laureate Luisa A. Igloria; 2020 DC Youth Poet Laureate, Marjan Naderi; and Arlington County’s Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova. Allowing the public to partake of a shared literary experience in a safe, socially distanced manner, each Wednesday evening in December (6-9pm), the projections will occur at four different outdoor locations in Arlington:

December 2, 2020: Crystal City – 2011 Crystal Drive
December 9: Penrose Square – 2597 Columbia Pike
December 16 17 (rescheduled due to snow): Lyon Village Shopping Center – 3133 Lee Highway
December 23: Shirlington Library – 4200 Campbell Avenue

Want to watch from home? Check out our livestream on Facebook on each Wednesday evening from 7 to 7:30pm.

Columbia Pike Recipes for You

Columbia Pike Recipes for You
Photo by Elman Studios for Arlington Arts

Showcasing the diversity of Columbia Pike through celebrating the cuisine found there, the Columbia Pike Recipes for You bookmaking project was developed with Arlington artist Sushmita Mazumdar. Enthusiastically received when it debuted at the “Art Island” during the 2016 Columbia Pike Blues Festival, it was decided to bring the project to additional locations including multiple visits to the Columbia Pike farmer’s market, Wakefield High School’s We Are All Arlington! event and “DIY stations” in Arlington Mill Community Center, and Arlington Central Library.

Recipes and stories from Columbia Pike restaurants were collected, and a display board was created where the public could “see” the food diversity of The Pike. Teaching people how to make simple yet creative books by hand added an interactive element which became the Columbia Pike Recipes for You project.

Read more about the project and download the recipes here.

Nauck Community Heritage Project

Picture of people in the Nauck tour group The Nauck Community Heritage Project completed in 2008 in partnership with the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development, asked historian Harold Anderson to document the oral histories of residents in the south Arlington Nauck community, also known locally as Green Valley. Nauck is a historically African-American community established over 150 years ago by freed slaves and is currently struggling to retain its traditional identity as it comes to grips with changes brought by gentrification and immigration. 

In 2013, Arlington Public Art was one of 59 grantees selected by the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Our Town program to develop a public art project in the planned Nauck Town Square. Oakland, CA-based landscape architect and artist Walter Hood will shape the final design of the plaza and will reflect the stories captured during the Nauck Community Heritage Project by in Nauck’s new town square expected to be completed in 2020.

Echoes of Little Saigon

Echoes of Little Saigon poster

Download Echoes of Little Saigon a booklet by Kim A. O’Connell documenting the contributions of the Vietnamese immigrants to Arlington. Based in part on oral histories conducted with community members, this full-color booklet was produced by Arlington Cultural Affairs in collaboration with Arlington’s Historic Preservation Program and Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History, with a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.