Arts and Letters History

The Arts and Letter Salon started out as an NSS Section. The idea of an NSS Arts and Letters Section to recognize creative works by NSS members was introduced at the 1997 UIS in Switzerland. It grew from spreadsheet ideas, ranging from books to postcards, fiction and non-fiction, to stamp collecting, into the first issue of the publication, Illuminations.

Mexico Drapery - Kasia Biernacka
Mexico Drapery - Kasia Biernacka

More history...

John Tudek and Paul Steward introduced the NSS Section and their publication, Illuminations, in the Spring of 1998, based on ideas in the UIS spreadsheet.

The Arts & Letters Section has always been separate from SpeleoArt, but some of the first SpeleoArt exhibitions appeared in this publication. NSS Fine Arts Salon artists also contribute. The Arts & Letters Section transitioned to a Salon after the 2019 convention.

Illuminations Magazine

Tudek and Steward produced Illuminations 1, 2 and 3. Kenneth Storey became editor with Issue 4 in June 2001. He has been editor since.

The Arts & Letters Salon of the NSS exists to encourage and extend speleological artistic expertise and interest into poetry, literature, original speleo-music, theater, and cross-discipline multimedia. We cross-pollinate with the graphic and three-dimensional Fine Arts Salon artists in our publication, Illuminations.

Published twice a year, Illuminations highlights cave-related work in the fine or literary arts. More issues may be published if there is enough material.

The magazine is available by paid subscription either digitally or as a hard copy.  Subscriptions sustain the magazine and help support ongoing Salon activities.

Adding Letters to Convention

Paul Steward and Michael Ray Taylor ran three or four literary gatherings at NSS Conventions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before Arts & Letters existed. Steward organized poetry readings and an hour-long writing activity before he ceased attending.

In 2001, Taylor ran a solo double-session called "Writing Underground" at the Frankfort, Kentucky convention. He reprised this as a couple of annual convention two-hour sessions, focused on a single aspect of cave writing, as a solo endeavor. In 2011, at the Colorado Springs convention, his expanded half-day "Cave Writers Workshop" became a blueprint for what was to follow.

2013 saw the first "official" Friday workshop sponsored by the Arts & Letter Section. After attending one of Taylor's session on writing dialog, Jo Schaper came on board as a co-presenter and organizer at the Missouri convention in 2015. Since 2017, they have continued bringing together caver writing professionals and novices to teach, listen, and learn, on convention Fridays.

Into the Future

In 2019, along with other Section members, they hatched the idea of hosting a physical salon at convention, a nook where A&L writers and artists could read, talk, exhibit, and sell their creations in 2020. The section transitioned into a salon. This plan was waylaid by the necessity of a virtual convention. We intend to implement this plan 2023 at the Elkins Convention.

Digital enhancements were first added to Illuminations # 32, in 2020, distributing artistic and literary audio/visual and video content to all. Illuminations is distributed as a pdf and in print for the same price--as a subscriber, you make the decision which format you prefer.