MANSFIELD -- It's been almost a year since Riley Kemerling shared any of her artwork with the general public. She used to post her drawings and paintings on social media, but the 26-year-old deleted her accounts last year. It all felt too impersonal.
That's why the prospect of a Richland County arts and literary journal was so exciting.
“I love the idea of having a physical collection of work that people can hold in their hands and own, instead of just viewing on their phones and forgetting," Kemerling said. "Sharing artwork on Instagram or Facebook all feels superficial because you know people are only spending half a second on it."
Kemerling has five pieces featured in the first issue of Tributary Reader, an arts and literary journal for and by the people of Richland County. The journal's first volume was officially released July 3.
Volume I is a whopping 118 pages, but it only shows a sliver of the visual art and literature locals have to offer.
“We probably received about three times as many submissions as ended up in the final book,” said Jillian Kyrou, founder and editor of Tributary Reader: A Richland County Journal of Art, Literature, and Environment.
Kyrou said she and managing editor Llalan Fowler were blown away by the quality of the work, but they did their best to select pieces that fit well together for the journal’s inaugural edition.
“We whittled it down a bit to make our page count,” Fowler said. “We had so many that we wanted to include but didn’t have enough room. We are encouraging people to submit them again.”
The editorial team asked that those submitting works be related to Richland County -- whether they’ve lived here in the past, live here now or have some other connection to the area.
“I was surprised that we were able to get so many really quality submissions. I wasn’t sure people were going to want to share their work with this idea that wasn’t a real thing yet,” Fowler said. “We’re just so proud of the reflection of our county that it represents. It’s what we wanted and more.”
Tributary Reader Volume I includes works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction and visual art. The book also includes one transcribed interview with art Ohio State University-Mansfield professor John Thrasher and a thought-provoking comic.
Many of the featured writers were part of a local writing group that met at Main Street Books.
Alison Bolen published a short story she workshopped in the group.
"It means a lot to have a piece published in this inaugural issue of Tributary Reader along with a lot of other writers who were, at different times, members of the same local writing group," Bolen said. "Losing the bookstore felt like a loss to that community of writers but having this journal feels somehow like all is not lost."
Bolen said the journal allows Richland County's community of writers to continue motivating each other.
"I’m inspired by each of the writers I’ve met and worked with locally, and I love that this journal gives others an opportunity to be equally inspired," she said.
The idea for a journal came about while Kyrou and Fowler were discussing potential ways to highlight the vibrant community of artists they saw in the area.
Photographer Braxton Daniels III says the journal accomplished that mission.
Daniels contributed four portraits originally commissioned for the North End Community Improvement Collaborative.
"To see local artist/poets/writers all featured in a piece such as this is incredible. TR gives us a platform," he said. "This physical piece of literature gives the readers the opportunity to see and experience all of us. No matter the medium of art. TR gave us that 'stage' to show the community who we are!"
The publication received financial support from the Richland County Foundation, The Carl & Annamarie Fernyak Fund, Cindy Fowler & Boyd Addlesperger, the Richland Community Development Group Art Sector and Cleveland Financial Group’s Charles P. Hahn.
“It’s always a good feeling to make an idea a reality,” Kyrou said. “It really started gaining steam from community support at every step of the way. We're just really lucky to live in a community that cares about art and literature and culture.”
Mark Sebastian Jordan, a regular contributor to Knox Pages' history section, combined storytelling and rhythm in his poem for Tributary Reader.
He said the journal is good not just for artists, but the community as a whole.
"Having a journal like this shows ourselves and the rest of the world who we are," he said. "For us to prosper as a region, we need an identity, and a project like this moves us closer to knowing who we are."
The editorial team will open submissions for a second volume in September, with a targeted release date in late November or early December, Kyrou said.
Copies of Volume I can be purchased at Lucah Designs and the Mansfield Art Center, as well as online at tributaryreader.bigcartel.com. Kyrou and Fowler hope to make copies available in more local businesses soon.