The inaugural Black Arts Matter Festival, organized by UW-Madison student and spoken word artist Shasparay Lighteard, took place the first week of March. The event was funded in part by a $2,000 Madison Public Library Foundation grant, and Madison Public Library provided venue space for several events free of charge.

The interdisciplinary arts festival was designed to celebrate, promote and build community around black artistry. The week of free events — several of which were held at Central Library, and others on the UW-Madison and Edgewood College campuses — included film, live theater, a poetry slam, and a panel discussion about black art and artists in Madison.

Madison Public Library Bubbler Assistant Carlee Latimer called the partnership with the grassroots festival “incredible.” The two-night Poetry Slam attracted nearly 200 people, she said.

“It was amazing to see the number of slam poets who visited Madison for the first time just for this festival, as well as the number of Madison community members who came out to show their support,” she said. “They were grateful to have a place like the library to gather, perform and build community amongst slam poets from all over the U.S.”