I was very pleased with this program
because I was able to see even the shyest
students come out of their shell to
participate in telling stories.

Lawren Smith

Program Coordinator, Langston Centre

Langston is acutely aware of story
and its impact.

Adam Dickson

Supervisor, Langston Centre

The Storytelling Program was by far
our students’ favorite series in
the after-school program.

Lawren Smith

Program Coordinator, Langston Centre

I was very pleased with
this program because I was
able to see even the shyest
students come out of
their shell to participate
in telling stories.

Lawren Smith

Program Coordinator,
Langston Centre

Langston is acutely
aware of story and
its impact.

Adam Dickson

Supervisor, Langston Centre

The Storytelling Program
was by far our students’
favorite series in the
after school program.

Lawren Smith

Program Coordinator,
Langston Centre

I Have A Story

“I Have a Story” encompassed a series of four projects that the International Storytelling Center designed to serve its home base of Washington County, Tennessee. Leveraging the power of storytelling to build relationships, foster community, amplify marginalized voices, and boost civic engagement, ISC worked with community partners to offer free instructional workshops.

Generously sponsored by a matching “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the programs took place from 2021 to 2022 on four different sites in Washington County, Tennessee.

  • Mountain View Elementary School
  • Carver Park & Recreation Center
  • Warrior’s Canvas & Veterans Art Center
  • East Tennessee State University

The NEA’s “Our Town” creative placemaking grants are designed to strengthen the connection between arts organizations and their broader communities as they work together to build a better future by supporting young people, preserving the past, and building bridges between individuals and the communities in which they live. Creating placemaking has been recognized by leading arts organizations and researchers as a vehicle for economic development and sustainable social change. We recognize the power of storytelling as a “seed art,” touching on diverse subjects such as photography, cooking, creative writing, and poetry, among other things. 

The “I Have a Story” Developmental Toolkit

The final stage of the project was to create a toolkit for other individuals and organizations to use in planning similar arts-forward initiatives in their communities.

Case Studies

The two-year initiative consisted of four discrete projects at different sites in Washington County. Learn more about each project and best practices that can be applied to similar efforts, then check out our planning resources. 

Mt View Elementary 900x600
School custodians are among society’s unsung heroes, and their work became even more important during the pandemic. This project was designed to give these employees at Mountain View Elementary School the spotlight, to foster intergenerational communication, and to empower kids with new skills. Fourth graders worked with ISC staff and Jasmine Henderson to practice interview techniques, which they used to learn more about the school’s custodians and create multimedia collages about the conversations.
Carver Sign 900x600 (1)
Professional storytellers and educators Bobby and Sherry Norfolk led participants in a day of reminiscing about Carver Recreation Center’s history, going through archival materials like photographs and scrapbooks, and sharing stories over a catered lunch. The storytellers led an informal workshop to help participants sharpen their storytelling skills, and a videographer captured memories that were prompted by Bobby Norfolk’s questions off camera.
Untitled design
The arts are a powerful tool for building interpersonal connections, relieving stress, and processing trauma. With the Warrior’s Canvas mission to serve as a creative space for veterans to connect with the surrounding community and have low-pressure opportunities to teach, learn, and grow, this project was designed to help veterans develop a new creative outlet. Building on the veterans’ tendency to share stories with one another, storyteller and Army veteran Ray Christian shared personal stories and led an interactive conversation about personal storytelling.
IHAS Trio 900x600
Students explored the intersection of memoir, mixed media art, storytelling, and identity to create works of art ("story portraits") about their experiences as college students. Led by project facilitator Hilarie Spangler, a select group of college and graduate students at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) embarked on a creative identity-based workshop with opportunities for reflection and sharing.

Planning Resources

Finding Partners and Collaborators
Choosing a Facilitator
Staging the Event
Creating a Tech Sheet
Sourcing Participants

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