Focusing on stories of hope and belonging, Arts+ and Blumenthal Arts will return to Spirit Square this week with its first in-person edition of Stories of Home, a slam-style storytelling event series that shares the tales of Charlotteans from all different demographics and what their city means to them.
The event’s goal is to create a connection between groups that may see themselves as vastly different but have more in common than is immediately evident, said event organizer Hannah Hasan. It’s the fourth event from the Intersections program, established in 2020 with the goal of bringing together residents of different age groups and socioeconomic statuses through enlightening conversations and storytelling.
Intersections connects teenaged high school students who participate in the Arts+ after-school program Studio 345 with adults including alumni of that program, public officials, and community organizers to share stories and narratives about their lives with the hope of finding common ground and new insights into how other people live.
Studio 345 is a free program that utilizes digital art through hands-on workshops to encourage students to stay in school and potentially pursue a higher degree after graduation. Since 2012, more than 3,000 students have gone through the program. The program offers private lessons, summer camps and community outreach programs, with a focus on digital photography, digital media arts, and multimedia design.
Building on that idea, Hasan launched the Intersections program to help bridge the generational gap through interactive and creative events like Stories of Home.
Through the Intersections program, Hasan creates cohorts made up half of Studio 345 students and half of alumni, elected officials and and other adult community leaders. The cohorts meet for writing workshops on three Fridays before coming together to share what they’ve created at Stories in Home events.
The first cohort began meeting in person — though masked and socially distanced — at the end of 2020 and shared their stories during a virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event hosted by Levine Museum of the New South in January 2021. The next two cohorts have been fully online, meeting over Zoom and shared during virtual events.
“From its conception, Intersections was designed to disrupt what we think we know about youth and adults working together to envision a world where we are connected on deeper levels, and the many ways that sharing stories can create meaningful change,” said Hasan, who has been a regular contributor to Queen City Nerve in the past.
Friday’s Stories of Home event will be the first to be held in person and will feature members of all three cohorts that have participated in the program. The stories shared in past events have been personal, many of them highlighting honest perspectives from growing up.
“The vulnerability and honesty shared during this program is special, and frankly, something we could all use more of in everyday life,” says Devlin McNeil, Arts+ executive director.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who attended the (virtual) show,” Hasan adds. “When I asked them, which stories they liked the best, many of them couldn’t pick just one … That’s what authentic stories do. That’s what this program does. I’m sure that this experience had a major impact on both the students and the adults. But more than anything, I think it will impact the way that the adult participants govern, lead, and show up in the world.”
Friday’s Stories of Home event will begin at 7 p.m. For more information and to register for the free event, visit the Blumenthal Arts website.
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