Story Circles for Cascade Village Public
The project, Cascade Village Public Art was funded by a Knight Foundation grant to strengthen the community at Cascade Village and explore the need for public art there. Cascade Village is a Project Hope, mixed- income community that replaced the old Elizabeth Park Public Housing Project. During my grant period, I used Story Circles as part of an effort to build community awareness and narrative that included informal conversation while working together on projects such as pottery, cooking, gardening and photography. Many studies indicate that awareness is necessary for a strong community1. With the help of colleagues in the CLP I organized two story telling sessions at Cascade Village. One took place in May of 2012, the other in October of 2012. The prompt for both Story Circle sessions was, “Tell a story about growing up back in the day.”
My goal in collecting these stories was to create awareness of the history of Elizabeth Park and of the older residents of Cascade Village. Though the history of Elizabeth Park is for the most part seen as negative; “the area was blighted and had to be torn down”, the stories told about growing up “back in the day” revealed that there were many positive memories about the neighborhood. I made some of these stories available to children who live in Cascade Village by inviting the story tellers to sessions with children who lived in Cascade Village. After the stories were told, the children illustrated them using drawing and watercolor. Like residents who told stories to bring the history of growing up in Cascade Village life, the story in this chapter concludes by using the children’s’ drawings to make a case for the value of using story circles specifically and narrative in general as a way of tying community awareness and community identity to art making. My final grant report to the Knight Foundation will underscore the importance of the community narrative in planning public art for Cascade Village.
Arts and cultural programming plays an important role in providing education about the historical and cultural context of a community and in providing opportunities for participation in community life through festivals, events and performances, interactive classes and workshops, and a variety of other activities.