At SouthCol, we are driven to help clients pursue their mission. Here is a client story that inspires us. We hope it inspires you.
The Bergman Foundation and the Bergman Prize
When The Bergman Foundation was founded in 2020, its mission was clear – to nurture and invest in the work of emerging artists.
Elliot Bergman, the eldest son of Judson and Susan Bergman and president of the Bergman Foundation explained, “We – my siblings and I – are fortunate to have had parents who were enthusiastic supporters of careers in the arts and it is a gift that we are determined to share with others.”
The Bergman Foundation has a broad mandate to support artists across a range of disciplines through innovative, high impact philanthropy. The Foundation pursues opportunities to make an impact in the arts community. This was especially important in 2020, given the effect of the pandemic on the arts.
How The Bergman Prize Was Born
Bennet Bergman, the youngest Bergman son, is a poet. As The Bergman Foundation was getting started, Bennet was working on his M.F.A. in poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. As a student, he had a unique perspective into the perpetual struggle of fellow poets to make a name, make a living, and get published.
“The world of poetry is idiosyncratic; it is a more academic field than fiction, and not as commercial, so the major publishing houses are not devoted to reading unsolicited poetry manuscripts. It is difficult to get noticed, let alone published,” said Bennet.
With a mandate and motivation to make an immediate impact, Bennet realized that he had the relationships and funding to establish a new poetry prize through the Bergman Foundation. Even better, this prize would honor his parents’ passion for the art of the written word.
After consulting with siblings and the Bergman Foundation board, Bennet’s first call was to his Yale poetry professor and mentor, Louise Glück. Glück is one of America’s most accomplished contemporary poets and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020. In Bennet’s mind, Glück would be the perfect person to judge the inaugural Bergman Prize for Poetry. Bennet asked and Glück agreed.
“Louise is a towering figure in the world of poetry. Getting her on board provided us with incredible momentum and credibility,” said Bennet.
Prize and Publication
With Glück officially on board, the next challenge was to create a contest and prize that was sustainable and impressive enough to attract the most talented artists. The Foundation’s goal was to provide a cash prize and publication of a book of poems – both of which would help change the life of the winning poet. The cash prize was provided by the Foundation, but the publishing component was a bit more complex. Bennet explained, “In the early days, I spoke to several different presses about working with our foundation to publish the prizewinning poet’s book. Most of the people I spoke to were confused by the idea that I didn’t just want to endow the prize fund and step away. I came to understand that, if I wanted to maintain any meaningful degree of involvement in shaping this prize, I was going to have to run the contest and publish the books myself.” Bennet started Changes, a new nonprofit press dedicated to publishing finely crafted editions of contemporary poetry.
The Inaugural Winner
The Bergman Prize was officially launched in the Fall of 2020. With more than 1,200 submissions, Rachel Mannheimer’s Earth Room was named the winner of the 2021 Bergman Prize, as selected by judge Louise Glück. Earth Room will be the first book in the Bergman Prize series and will be published by Changes in the spring of 2022.
Looking back on the last year, Bennet and the Bergman Foundation are grateful to the many people involved in helping them establish not only a new foundation, but also a new poetry prize. They believe both will have an immediate and lasting impact. It seems a fitting way to honor the Bergman legacy.
When asked what his parents would think of the Bergman Prize, Bennet reflectively answers, “My mom was an artist, and my dad was a visionary. I believe they would think this was a worthy endeavor.”
For more information on the Bergman Prize,
please follow Changes on Instagram and Twitter.