History

The Attic Institute of Arts and Letters

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Established in January 1999, the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters is many things to many people. It's a private literary studio and a school for creativity. It's a think tank about the relationship between writers and civic life and a writers' community focused on the process of making new art.

Above all, the Attic Institute is a haven for independent writers. Our faculty of experts, fellows, and teachers includes recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in both fiction and poetry, the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, both the Stegner Fellowship and the Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, many Oregon Book Awards and Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Awards, inclusion in Best American anthologies, listed on the New York Times Bestsellers list, as well as the New York Times Notable Books of the Year, the Poetry Foundation's Best Books of the Year, and the Smithsonian Notable Books of the Year, among many other accolades.  Given the experience, size, talent, and the local, regional, national, and international visibility of the Attic Institute faculty, it has been hailed as one of the most acclaimed groups of writers of any creative writing organization in the United States.

And, yes, it's known affectionately simply as the Attic.

At the Attic, students gather to make and share new pieces of writing. We are dedicated to engaging ways to create, explore, and innovate, to generating and participating in essential and lively conversation about the creative process and the publication of new work, and to reflecting on ideas, the imagination, and civic life, as well as on artistic, cultural, and social experience. 

The Attic's history in Portland began in a large attic space on Hawthorne Boulevard that was the location both for founder David Biespiel's writing studio and for what was for many years known as the Attic Writers' Workshop.

But the larger story of the Attic Institute in Portland, Oregon, begins in ancient Greece.  As the prestige dialect of Athens, Attic Greek was the language of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers and poets who so influenced Western Civilization that their works have been studied throughout the world for centuries.

That's the spirit of learning at the heart of the Attic Institute today, a spirit of ambition and dedication for independent writers and for experiencing and interpreting the world. Focusing on creative inspiration, the Attic Institute's philosophy is designed to encourage and develop your talent, to help you become accountable to yourself, and to assist you in establishing momentum for your writing. 

Small, supportive, and intensive, the Attic Institute workshops are a safe and inspiring place where you'll receive generous attention for your creative pursuits while at the same time enjoying the camaraderie and community of other imaginative individuals.  In 2011, nearly 800 participants attended classes, joined programs like the Atheneum and the Hawthorne Fellows, and scheduled private conferences with writing coaches, book doctors, and editors through the Individual Consult Group.

Together, Hawthorne Boulevard and the Attic Institute make for an oasis for independent writers and literary activity. Often participants meet before workshop for an coffee at Common Grounds, or afterwards, at the dessert & wine bar at the Sapphire Hotel. Powell's used bookstore, Bread & Ink Cafe, vintage clothing shops, and the Baghdad are all within walking distance of the studio.  The Attic Institute is a nexus for a vibrant community, where writers have developed literary friendships, seeded collaborations, writing groups, and magazine start-ups. From 2005-2010, the Attic Institute was the home for the rebirth and revival of the historic literary journal, Poetry Northwest.

Attic Institute participants have signed with publishers and agents, been accepted into residencies and graduate programs, embarked on literary businesses of their own, and simply become more connected to good writing and reading. We can't guarantee the whole gamut for everyone, but we can guarantee a comfortable chair, support in the crafting of individual pieces, and a personal focus on your development as a creative writer.