Jonesborough, Tenn.—The International Storytelling Center (ISC) has been approved for a $30,000 Art Works grant for Storytelling Live!, its world-renowned Teller-in-Residence program. This 26-week annual series invites master storytellers from around the U.S. and abroad to week-long residencies in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Overall, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has approved 1,187 grants totaling $27.3 million in the first round of fiscal year 2020 funding to support arts projects in every state in the nation, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
“The arts are at the heart of our communities, connecting people through shared experiences and artistic expression,” said Arts Endowment chairman Mary Anne Carter. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support projects like Storytelling Live! from the International Storytelling Center.”
Now in its 19th year, the popular Storytelling Live! series is a showcase that draws from the nation’s top talent. Each week, ISC invites a different “teller in residence” to Jonesborough for five days of live storytelling performances. Designed to complement the National Storytelling Festival, Storytelling Live! features tellers who specialize in a variety of oral traditions, including song and poetry, which rely on the spoken word. On top of daily performances, many of our tellers stack their schedules with local appearances at schools and hospitals. And in 2019, ISC launched Kids Storytelling Institute as part of the Storytelling Live! program, an initiative that pairs curriculum with an immersive arts experience to create a unique educational opportunity for teachers and students. In its inaugural year, nearly 800 fifth-graders from across the region experienced live storytelling for the first time in a state-of-the-art cultural institution.
The NEA announcement follows other recent ISC grant awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the East Tennessee Foundation. Funds from these grants will support new initiatives aimed at reaching marginalized communities. 2020 will see the development of Freedom Stories, a project that will illuminate the underappreciated and neglected aspects of African Americans in Appalachian history and highlight the role that face-to-face storytelling has played in both African and Appalachian cultures. ISC will also host a summer program called SHEro’s Journey, which helps empower adolescent girls who have been affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) through the lens of storytelling. Additionally, ISC will continue to expand outreach of its popular Storytelling Live! series to deliver programming to more schools and youth organizations and build on its annual Young Appalachian Story Summit event.
“Storytelling fosters connection, creativity and innovation,” says ISC President Kiran Singh Sirah. “When we can empower people to be the story they wish to see in the world, anything is possible. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of what storytelling can do. We want to build on our world-class reputation and establish our campus as a true center for dialogue and innovation. We strive for our headquarters in Jonesborough to be a beacon for hope and understanding as we all work to build a better world.”
The National Storytelling Festival and Storytelling Live! Teller-in-Residence Series are proud to reach nearly 30,000 attendees of all ages from across the globe, while locally creating 111 jobs and contributing more than $7.6 million in annual economic impact.
To learn more about the NEA and other projects included in their grant announcement, visit their website.