freelance writer since 1985, Holly Metz has written about law, culture, and social issues for a broad range of newspapers, journals, and magazines, including Preservation magazine, Labor History, Poets & Writers, Public Art Review, Threepenny Review, and the New York Times. For nine years she was a contributing writer for The Progressive and the American Bar Association publication Student Lawyer. Her published work includes interviews with socially conscious artists such as painter Alice Neel and photographer Susan Meiselas, essays on the ubiquity of asbestos in American homes and the risks of making underground art in the former Soviet Union, and investigations into such topics as the use of the “recovered memory syndrome” in the courtroom and the military’s use of animals to test weapons later used on humans (the latter, published in Animals’ Agenda, was selected by Project Censored as one of its annual “25 Best.”)
Holly has been recognized with a Barbara Deming Award for her writing on women war resisters and a Dick Goldensohn Fund Award for her Progressive magazine investigation into parental use of psychiatric commitment to control or punish rebellious teenagers. Her examination of the use of the “necessity defense” by both left- and right-wing protestors, published in Student Lawyer and Z magazine, was included in the 4th edition of Before the Law: An Introduction to the Legal Process. She was delighted to have one of her articles for The Progressive included in Democracy in Print: The Best of the Progressive Magazine, 1909-2009, alongside the works of Eugene Debs, Howard Zinn, Molly Ivins, and Bill Moyers. In 2013, her book, Killing the Poormaster: A Saga of Poverty, Corruption, and Murder in the Great Depression received the Book of the Year Award from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the McCormick Prize from the New Jersey Historical Commission.
As a freelancer, she has been able to pursue ideas and topics without the limitations set by a conventional reporter’s beat. After reading about the “mysterious” death in detention of anti-apartheid activist, Dr. Neil Aggett, she spent several months culling through the underground dispatches of South African activists and compiling data from human rights groups to produce the text for How to Commit Suicide in South Africa, a visual and documentary indictment of the apartheid regime, powerfully illustrated by artist Sue Coe (Raw Books & Graphics, 1983.) A phone call from a colleague about a Newark, New Jersey, woman who had raised the ire of city officials by building a massive ship out of ruined buildings on a church parking lot, led the writer to document the surrounding legal and civic controversy for several magazines, and later, to research such unofficial public artworks nationwide.
Based on her research on American art environments, and following a presentation at a Library of Congress/American Folk Life conference, Holly developed a course for the Humanities Department of the New School, using an interdisciplinary approach to introduce “Grassroots Art in America” to students and to encourage them to consider the forces that shape our built environment. She taught at the New School from 1996 to 2000, and was invited by the Slade School of Art in London in 1998 to lecture on political and legal challenges to public art.
But no matter where her research has taken her, Hoboken, New Jersey, has remained her home, and as a resident for over 30 years, she has long been active in its civic and cultural life. She founded the Hoboken Oral History Project, a joint project of the Hoboken Historical Museum and the Friends of the Hoboken Library, and is the editor of its “Vanishing Hoboken” chapbook series. Holly has written numerous catalogs for local history and art organizations and has developed dozens of free history programs for presentation and discussion in a broad range of public spaces, including a Hoboken Housing Authority community room, a luncheonette, a social club, and City Council chambers.