RAAC partnering on ‘Telling Stories, Telling Belongings’

By Anne E. O’Keefe
Rockford Area Arts Council

TSTP-Logo-Final_Artboard 5The Rockford Area Arts Council has been partnering with the Rockford Housing Authority since 2013 to unearth hidden artistic and entrepreneurial talent. We have also partnered to create New Mix – Rockford in the Ellis Heights community to shape and move Ellis Heights forward. We’ve shared our Rockford City Market booth, ArtScene has been at Fairgrounds and that’s just the start. We are both excited to be bringing a great opportunity to our community through a collaborative event led by the National Public Housing Museum.

The event invites participants to tell their story through cherished belongings. The event is Thursday, June 16 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., with the storytelling beginning at 6 p.m. The gathering will take place at Fairgrounds Valley Community Center, 1015 W. Jefferson St. Refreshments will be served.

The event; entitled Telling Stories, Telling Belongings; is modeled after two previous storytelling events in Chicago and will offer an opportunity for community listening and connection through storytelling.

The event will feature storytellers from across public housing in Rockford who will bring an object to help tell their story about living in public housing in a relaxed “show and tell” format. Community members from Rockford are also encouraged to come and tell their stories through cherished objects.

When asked about the significance of objects in storytelling in helping encourage a shared history, Associate Director and Curator of the National Public Housing Museum, Todd Palmer states, “Stories change the narrative, and even the most mundane belongings serve tangibly to connect us to individual recollections. These objects remind us that our stories unfold in the shared places and spaces of everyday life.”

This event hopes to bring people from public housing and other community residents together to continue a positive dialogue and build new friendships.

Ron Clewer, Rockford Housing Authority Chief Executive Officer, sees the value of using the arts. “This event and events like this will raise the narrative of what housing can be,” Clewer said. “This will illuminate the successes and the challenges those living in public housing experience,” Clewer continued.

The National Public Housing Museum is the first cultural institution in the United States dedicated to interpreting the American experience in public housing. The Museum draws on the power of place and memory to illuminate the resilience of the poor and working class families of every race and ethnicity to realize the promise of America. It seeks to open its permanent home in the last extant building of the Jane Addams Homes which will begin construction in 2017 in Chicago.

To get a better sense of the event and what you will need to bring to tell your story, check out nphm.org/whats-new for a sample of the event held in March in Chicago. We have all been reminded of the importance of storytelling of late, I hope that you will join us for this event and leave something with the audience but more importantly, take something with you.

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