“Story Days” project hopes to spread culture, history of Phoenix

The ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre is known for innovative, community-based, socially engaged artistic practice, including initiatives like Performance in the Borderlands, which presented Entre Mujeres in downtown Phoenix in November 2013. (Photo by Tim Trumble)

The ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre is known for innovative, community-based, socially engaged artistic practice, including initiatives like Performance in the Borderlands, which presented Entre Mujeres in downtown Phoenix in November 2013. (Photo courtesy of Tim Trumble)

$100,000 has been dedicated toward the spread of Phoenix culture and presenting history and traditions.

The School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Herberger has partnered with the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program for the Our Town Grant resulting in a project called Story Days.

Jake Pinholster, director of the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre, said it will allow citizens to share experiences of living in the Valley.

“It will provide chances for community members to tell their own stories,” he said. “It’ll provide chances for communities to hear to hear and be a part of each other’s stories.”

Associate dean of the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre Tamara Underiner said the idea was first generated due to the expansion of the Herberger in Phoenix.

“We have new art studios built in downtown Phoenix and Herberger’s been increasing its downtown presence,” she said. “We thought, ‘Well, if you guys want to partner up, let’s see what we can do.’”

The school submitted a proposal and came to the city of Phoenix to talk about partnering up. Pinholster said Herberger didn’t know Phoenix had already submitted its own proposal. He said the two proposals morphed into one, combining about 70 percent of the Phoenix plan and 30 percent of Herberger’s.

“The original one from Phoenix was much more on poetry and literature and text,” he said. “Ours was much more about space, creating space and physical formats.”

ASU originally proposed a plan called Phoenix 2050.

“We would go around Central and South Phoenix and allow people to voice their opinions about what Phoenix in 2050 will look like,” Pinholster said.

That plan ultimately got nixed, but the resulting idea of Story Days retained the Herberger’s plan of physical performance.

“We’re engaging with members of the community so we understand their ideas of what their perception of Phoenix is like, and we’re using it to turn it into performance,” Pinholster said. “It’s no longer focused on ideas of the future, it’s more focues right now on the present or the past.”

Underiner said the project will look at history and culture of the Valley.

“(The city of Phoenix) wants people to tell about what it’s like to live where they live and kind of create a living archive of stories and poetry and song that says this is who we are, this is what Phoenix is,” she said. “These are stories the rest of the world may never hear.”

Friendly House will be a big part of the project. Underiner compared it to a community center.

“(It’s) like a refuge for people who are newly arrived in Phoenix,” she said. “They have connections with the folks that we’re trying to reach.”

Ed Lebow, the Public Art Program director of the city of Phoenix, said Friendly House is important to the project because of its almost 100-year history of serving the community.

“There are extraordinary stories over those hundred years about how Phoenix has always received newcomers and how perhaps the arts can tell that story,” he said.

Story Days will incorporate student efforts in a variety of ways, Pinholster said. Both graduate students and undergraduates will be allowed to help with research, logistics and performance aspects.

The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program completed a project with South Mountain library “several years back,” Lebow said, and they also worked with Herberger in 2013 to complete a grant called Feast on the Street.

Lebow called these projects “kernels” for Story Days.

Like Story Days, Underiner said, Feast on the Street was meant to look at how art can develop and help a location and allow it to grow.

“(Story Days) is the next phase of that idea that the arts can really make a community feel more livable,” Underiner said.

 

Reach the reporter at logan.newman@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Logan_Newsman