Artist Spotlight: Rich and Sandra Wallace

This month we interview authors Rich Wallace & Sandra Neil Wallace of Keene! Who are they? Sandra had a long career in television as an ESPN sportscaster and host of a travel show on public TV. Rich was a senior editor at Highlights for Children magazine. Now they are authors bringing light to inspiring stories!

“We’ve both published several novels, but we consider ourselves investigative journalists,” says Rich. “When we became empty nesters, we moved to Keene, and we love it here.”

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Tell us a little bit about you and your art!

We write for children and teenagers. Our nonfiction books, which we usually co-author, focus on barrier breakers and social justice heroes, like Keene’s own Jonathan Daniels. Our most recent book together is FIRST GENERATION: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great. Last weekend, Sandra’s new book, BETWEEN THE LINES: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, was named the best nonfiction book of the year by the National Council of Teachers of English.

How do you connect to the arts in the Monadnock Region?

We benefit enormously from the arts scene here. We take in live events and lots of films at the Colonial Theater, enjoy art shows at the Thorne-Sagendorph Gallery, and get to as many local music shows as we can. Love what Machina Arts is doing and thrilled about Moco’s new facility. Sandra served as chair of the selection committee for the 2017 Monadnock International Film Festival, and she and helped plan the 2018 Keene International Festival.

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We celebrate collaboration in the Monadnock region. How do you work with other artists and arts organizations?

We work together on many of our books, of course, but we also collaborate with regional artists. We worked with hip-hop performer Adam Arnone on a music video for BLOOD BROTHER, which is our biography of Jonathan Daniels. Local cinematographer Jeff Colter produced and edited that one. And we found so many young readers in the region who told us how much they loved FIRST GENERATION that Adam created some videos with them. 

We’ve also done readings and talks at the Toadstool Bookshop, the Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene State College, Keene Public Library, and other local venues.

What is your dream for arts in our region? What would you like to see happen here?

We’d love to see a more substantial music scene here, and we think it’ll happen. We’d be supportive in any way we can. There’s a lot of energy toward the arts here, and it seems to be getting traction with the First Friday events, for example. And the Keene Music Festival gets better every year. When we first came to town we were regulars at a few open mics (as spectators, not performers), and hope there could be a revival of those.

We’re also finding that building partnerships across the arts is a key way to strengthen and amplify the arts scene and also the quality of life for the community. We’re excited about seeing Keene expand its green spaces to create community hubs where we can enjoy free outdoor films, dancing, and food tastings and to enjoy these spaces as dynamic living rooms and welcoming spaces to share creative experiences. We also know how the arts can be a bridge across cultures. Illuminating our region's cultural diversity through arts events, from poetry to art installations, is something we look forward to experiencing more of in the region.

What else would you like to share?

We are proud members of the Keene Immigrant and Refugee Partnership and are on the advisory board for the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College. We live near the downtown and walk in almost every day to visit the Monadnock Food Co-op, Hannah Grimes Marketplace, Brewbakers, and the great restaurants.

 Authors Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace

Authors Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace