No doubt about it: In ways both large and small, 2020 was a year of challenges. Yet, Judson residents have continued to move forward, whether pursuing their lifelong passions or exploring new dreams. In fact, that might be one of COVID’s silver linings: Reimagining our pursuits in the shadow of a pandemic can enhance our sense of engagement.
Poet, curator, educator, director, producer, facilitator, and self-identified cultural consultant, Nina Freedlander Gibans is a member of the Judson community who understands the power of continual reinvention.
Nina’s remarkable past achievements have included launching the Cleveland Arts Council; partnering with WVIZ to produce and direct videos; spearheading a community-wide effort to link poetry and art; and bringing home the 2009 Martha Joseph Prize, a Cleveland Arts Prize special citation for distinguished service to the arts community.
To date, Nina has published nine books. In 2018, she released “Celebrating the Soul of Cleveland” – part autobiography, part history and part communal reflection on what endears Cleveland to Clevelanders. In 2019, Nina graciously shared her joys, and some inevitable sorrows, in her book of poetry, “In the Garden of Old Age.” Featuring more than 50 poems – many written as part of a Tupelo Press project that found her crafting 30 poems in 30 days – the 79-page paperback is filled with personal reflections that mirror Nina’s rich life.
The fact that cerebral palsy has been Nina’s lifelong companion has never dimmed her resolve. “I really never gave much thought to what I couldn’t do,” she says from her suite in Judson Park’s Ambler Court. “The important thing, I always thought, was to find what you can do – instead of dwelling on what you can’t – and make something out of that.”
Over the past year, Nina has been using her poetry as an antidote to the loneliness and isolation that COVID can bring. “Seriously, the self-created contact with the outer world and telling of our own stories to interested others here keeps depression at arms’ length, literally,” she wrote in an issue of “Connections,” the Judson Park newsletter.
“Memory is everything at this age,” Nina says. “At this point in life, there’s not much future thinking. But we all have memories – not just of our work, but of what was important to us, what we think life is all about. To the extent we ignore the importance of memory, we are impoverished. But by sharing those memories, we not only find a way to connect with our peers, we find a source of joy.”