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Spotlighting Community Storytellers

Updated: May 21, 2021

A Kansas Literacy Festival Partner Spotlight:

Salina Arts & Humanities features Salina residents’ life stories

In the months leading up to our Kansas Literacy Festival this September, Storytime Village is excited to spotlight the incredibly talented individuals and organizations who have partnered with us to host literacy programming across the state of Kansas.

This spotlight features Salina Arts & Humanities and their project engaging community storytellers in Salina.

The Inspiration Behind the Project

When the pandemic forced schools into online learning, Salina Arts & Humanities realized they needed to plan their Kansas Literacy Festival project accordingly. A department of the City of Salina, Salina Arts & Humanities strives to make arts and culture more accessible to all Salina residents through their programs. Most of their literacy programs typically engage with students and teachers in schools. However, as they entered the planning phase for their project, the pandemic had made schools less accessible.

“This led us to an exploration of community storytelling, and a chance to engage with the public in ways that we have not previously programmed,” said Arts Education Coordinator Anna Pauscher Morawitz.

In addition, Salina Arts & Humanities also aimed to strengthen their community’s literacy and social-emotional growth by incorporating listening, discussion, and reading.

The Festival Project: The Salina Storytelling Project

Hoping to engage directly with community storytellers, Salina Arts & Humanities sent out a call for volunteers or nominations to participate in the Salina Storytelling Project. This project would provide Salina residents the opportunity to share their personal stories through a recorded video.

“We were intentional about looking for stories of hope and resiliency and inviting voices of those who are often less heard in our community,” said Pauscher Morawitz.

After choosing to feature four residents, Salina Arts & Humanities paired the storytellers with interested coaching artists, who helped them prepare to tell their stories in front of a camera.

“We had little idea of what to expect," said Pauscher Morawitz. "It was exciting to understand the range of topics and voices that responded to our call."

The four storytellers’ videos will be posted on YouTube starting April 2, followed by a new video each week for the rest of the month. The schedule is the following:

  • April 2 – Kira Gilbert, “You Never Know How Your Life Can Change”

  • April 8 – Ieshea Woodring, “I’m Rewriting My Story and it’s Beautiful”

  • April 16 – Rosa De La Cruz, “A Dominican in Kansas”

  • April 22 – Andi Lemna, “Family Heartache”

In addition to the videos, the Salina Storytelling Project created a recommended reading list, with specific books suggested to supplement each video. The list includes selections for children, young adults, and adults.

“We hope that those who listen to the stories and explore the recommended reading list leave the experience with feelings of empathy towards the stories shared and a willingness to engage in dialog around the topics presented.”

Hoping to reach a wider audience, Salina Arts & Humanities also partnered with several other community organizations, including the Salina Adult Education Center, Salina Public Library, and Salina Media Connection. A community discussion will be held through Zoom on April 29 at 7 p.m., with registration open to anyone.

Though the pandemic placed constraints on the Salina Storytelling Project, Salina Arts & Humanities hopes to expand it.

“We plan to explore a shift to a post-pandemic framework that continues to engage community storytellers, coaching artists, and community members with open ears and empathic hearts,” said Pauscher Morawitz.