Story Days

Project: Research project

Project Details


Story Days Our Town - City of Phoenix a. Major project activities: The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Arizona State Universitys Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Friendly House and other arts and community partners will commission and present a two-year series of story-based events that explore the bonds between people and their communities. Titled Story Days, this project would bring diverse communities together with writers and performers to highlight the forces that shape the meaning of place in our lives and fast-changing city. Our Town funding would enable the project partners to expand the reach and impact of this collaborative effort in and beyond the communities it involves. We rely on the quantitative to define our communities and the policies that serve them. Yet how do we measure a communitys soul the conversations, memories, visions, feelings and affiliations people invest in the places they live? Story Days will tap this well of insight by merging community voices with those of spoken word artists and performers to produce original, poetic- story- and performance-based works about the identity of place. It will begin with a series of performances and readings by leading artists of the spoken word; be developed during a year-long series of writer-led community workshops; and culminate in the second year with presentations of the works created through this project at local parks, libraries and other highly visible, accessible and perhaps surprising community spaces. In a city of 517 square miles, Story Days will shrink the distance between communities and cultural events by taking the creation and presentation of original works to where the people are. The effort will focus initially on two communities rooted deeply in the citys history yet facing changes that promise to reshape their identity, history and stories. The first, Central City South, stretches south from downtowns warehouse district, where the ASUs Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts soon will relocate several programs within its School of Art. During segregation, the community was among the few in Phoenix where African American families could find places to live. Home to two historic neighborhoods of public housing, its mix of predominantly African American and Latino residents can claim community ties going back many years. They have seen significant changes in the past decade. A federal HOPE VI grant transformed the historic Matthew Henson public housing into a mixed income community, along the areas western edge. To the south, city bonds brought a new library and public art enhancements to Harmon Park, adjacent to the Marcos de Niza public housing. The southward expansion of downtown revitalization and transportation corridors will continue to alter the community. The second project area surrounds South Mountain Community Library, where agricultural fields have grown into housing subdivisions over the past fifteen years. Arizonas Poet Laureate, Alberto Ris, put these changes to rhythms and words in Baseline Blooms, a community poem presented as part of an award-winning Phoenix public art project at the library in 2012. To write the poem, Ris gathered contributions of phrases, thoughts and memories from residents of the area. The community outpouring of thoughts and feelings sparked the notion that a project like Story Days could expand and deepen a communitys conversation about itself in the face of change. Through this grant, the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts will select keynote writers and performers Mr. Ris and the spoken word performance group Phonetic Spit are but two to conduct free public readings, performances and presentations to kick-start the year-long exploration of community voices and conversations. POACs Public Art Program will follow this with a competitive process to commission writers and story tellers to work directly with the Harmon Park, Matthew Henson and South Mountain Communities to create stories, poems and spoken word performances of all kinds that will be presented at community venues, Friendly House and other sites throughout the city. ASUs Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts/School of Film, Dance and Theatre will also commission guest artists in theater, dance and spoken word poetry to involve students with residents of the Harmon Park, Matthew Henson and South Mountain communities in the projects exploration of voice and place. The Institute will combine a long history of artistic research and collaboration in these communities with an ambitious new program in community-based, socially-engaged artistic practice. This new program brings art students, faculty, visiting artists and community residents together in common creative workshops. Two specially trained graduate research assistants, under the supervision of experienced faculty members in community-based arts, will serve as artist/community coordinators for the project. Friendly House, a portal for immigrants to Phoenix for more than 90 years, will bolster project efforts by hosting and coordinating events through its extensive outreach and services throughout the Central City South community. b. Goals and impact: This project will 1) create original works that mine the experiences and feelings that shape the identity of communities and place in a changing Phoenix; 2) strengthen community bonds and partnerships by involving residents from all walks of life with poets, writers and performers in telling the stories of their place. c. Outcome(s) and Measurements: The primary focus of Story Days will be Livability: Strengthening communities through the arts with literary events that engage people where they live. Engagement will be the secondary outcome. Performance measures will include the numbers of, 1) artists commissioned, 2) residents and audience members engaged in the works 3) new community partnerships established and 4) media coverage.
Effective start/end date2/13/159/1/16


  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): $20,000.00


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