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01/16/2013

Creating a “Greater” Greater Philadelphia

This Martin Luther King Day, First Person Arts is teaming up with the Greater Philadelphia Cutural Alliance to participate in the launch of their new grassroots civic movement, GroundSwell. The free event includes stories, art, food, beer, and wine. Click here for more info and to register.

First Person Arts has created a special story-sharing program that puts the spotlight on why the arts are important as part of the event. FPA worked with community members from Art-Reach, an organization whose mission it is to enrich lives by connecting underserved audiences with cultural experiences so that they may enjoy and benefit from the transformative powers of the arts. Through a series of workshops, Art-Reach participants shared and developed their personal stories about how the arts have impacted their lives. Those stories have become the fabric of Monday’s story-sharing event. Actors and musicians will use their artistry to help bring those stories to life along side Art-Reach participants at the Arden Theater. Afterwards audience members will have a chance to tell their own personal stories.

I’ve spoken with David Bradley, Director of the story-sharing event, to go behind the scenes of the process and give us a better idea of what we can expect.

Becca: The GroundSwell story-sharing event centers on one main question: Why are the arts important? You worked with participants from the Art-Reach community to answer this question and they’ve shared their thoughts. I’m curious now to hear from you. Why do you believe the arts are important?

David: Art engages us in seeing, listening to, and experiencing the world in ways that are active, new, sometimes provocative, and sometimes inspiring. It connects us to other people and gives us a way of thinking about our own lives. Art lifts us beyond the ordinary. It brings joy.

Becca: What is it like to work with the participants?

David: It’s been great to experience the honesty, passion and humor that Ray, Georgette, Peter and Valerie have shared. From Peter describing how a play hit home with him, to Ray’s stories of playing the piano, I enjoy getting a glimpse of how stories, music, and performance influence the lives of these four people.

Becca: What do you hope audience members will take away from the story-sharing?

David: When we stop and think about the songs we’ve loved, the paintings we’ve seen, and the stories we’ve read or been told, we start to realize all the different ways creative expression influences us. I’ve loved hearing that realization in the stories we’re sharing. I hope hearing these stories sparks audience members’ own ideas and memories about the ways art has mattered and can mattered to them.

Becca: What most excites you about the story-sharing?

David: I really connect with the whole idea behind GroundSwell–pointing out how the arts can play a part in everyone’s lives, and how so many of us have stories of the way art has touched us.

Becca: What is the value of work that uses community-generated content as source material such as this one?

David: I’ve always been drawn to how theatre can be a meeting place. The bigger the tent– a chance to meet more people, ideas, and perspectives. So, when we invite people and stories from a broad community, we have a chance to really hear things in new ways– ways we wouldn’t have thought of on our own.

Becca: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about coming out to the GroundSwell event?

David: What a fun gathering–poetry, stories, chances to make your own art. All at a great venue!

Event Details:
Monday, January 21
Arden Theater (40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia)
5:30PM – 8:00PM

Photos courtesy of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

-Becca Jennings

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