Strengthening Community Through Storytelling

LIVE STORYTELLING and COMMUNITY

HUMAN CONNECTION and RIGHTS

RURAL COLORADO and THE WEST

 

Understanding stories and identities different than our own takes a conscious effort. With divisive rhetoric filling our news feeds every day that compound this challenge, we need stories of communities supporting one another and creating cultures of belonging, now more than ever. The community behind Mancos Creative District is saying yes to this challenge, by developing and facilitating events and conversations that bring meaning and value to its residents.

Together they are creating space for communities to come together, create and connect through the arts. Last year Mancos Arts District was awarded an Arts in Society grant for their storytelling project which brought eight local residents to the stage to share their own stories of belonging in front of an audience.

Thank you to Mancos Creative District for writing the following blog post and sharing your work.

 

A small town comes together to fortify its community

Mancos, Colorado, U.S.A. is located in the state’s most southwestern county of Montezuma. The town is home to 1,460 residents representing an array of backgrounds and cultures: old-school farmers and ranchers to young first generation producers, over 150 weavers, welders, sculptors, and painters, Gen Xrs raising families, and creatively finding ways to make a living in a rural community. Mancos is also home to a host of outdoor-minded folks from young to old that find their inspiration in nature's wonders . We are a "get 'er done" kind of community that loves to use our creative potential.

Mancos residents have a strong, innate desire in our community of humans to help people feel that they belong and are valued and included. We always extend a helping hand to one another. Whether it's banding together to pulling out stuck vehicles using draft horses, gathering friends for a fundraiser for a family in need, or coming together through our annual Mancos Melt Festival to put some cheer into the winter blues, we work and celebrate life together.

Our project #weallbelong is about connecting one human being to another, across differences in race, creed, religion, economic status, gender and sexuality. Through sharing and listening to each others personal stories - be that on the street, on the stage, through visual art, poetry, or sculpture - we create a smaller, more connected world and a kinder community for all of us.

With the state of the world as it is, the divisiveness that is portrayed in the media can threaten a small town like ours, where literally everyone is needed to make our town function and thrive. Out of our shared need to connect and deepen our relationships bloomed the #weallbelong project.

 

#weallbelong

We started with a core cross section of our community that we called the C3 group - Core Community Creatives. Together we brainstormed what it meant for us either to belong and to not belong in our community, and we brainstormed what kind of role we could play as a group to initiate conversation, stories, and connection in our community and beyond. We created and shared surveys and asked people about what it means to them to belong or to not belong to a place or community.

In response to our community, we developed and completed three projects around the theme of belonging and came up with the hashtag campaign, #weallbelong - for our first event. We then collaborated with Raven Narratives Live Storytelling to create a welcoming space and stage for local residents to share their stories in front of an audience. Our storytelling nights took place in the fall of 2018 to sold out audiences in both Mancos and our neighboring town of Durango, Colorado. More than 300 people enjoyed the events over two nights!

Residents of Mancos, Colorado shared their experiences of belonging in front of a live, local audience. From top left, clockwise: Wendolyne Omaña, Mary Quinn, Rosa Sabido, Jim Law, Tom Garcia, Sue Lowry, Gabriel Bernier, Lille Diane, and armida huerta in the center.  Portrait by McCarson Leigh ( Red Scarf Shots )

Residents of Mancos, Colorado shared their experiences of belonging in front of a live, local audience. From top left, clockwise: Wendolyne Omaña, Mary Quinn, Rosa Sabido, Jim Law, Tom Garcia, Sue Lowry, Gabriel Bernier, Lille Diane, and armida huerta in the center.

Portrait by McCarson Leigh (Red Scarf Shots)


We as a community demonstrated our support for Rosa Sabido's Sanctuary movement by inviting her to the stage to share her experience in story form, educating the audience about her personal plight while living as an undocumented person in our community, since 2017.

Listen to Rosa’s story, and stories by her fellow Mancos residents - by clicking on the photos below.

 
Mancos Creative District partnered with The Raven Narratives to produce two evenings of storytelling by local residents, centered around the theme of ‘Belonging’.

Mancos Creative District partnered with The Raven Narratives to produce two evenings of storytelling by local residents, centered around the theme of ‘Belonging’.

 

Keeping the Conversation Going

Formed by local residents in 2014, Mancos Creative District is a partnership between the many businesses, individuals and organizations that so enrich the Mancos community. Namely, Mancos Common Press, Town of Mancos, Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce, Mancos Valley Historical Society, Mancos Public Library, Mancos School of the West, Mancos Valley Resources, Mount Lookout Grange, Mancos School District, and numerous local galleries and restaurants.

Our storytelling project was powerful and helped propel the conversation about belonging forward. Together, many of us also attended and supported the Mancos DocFest, a documentary film festival showcasing local and global films around the theme of belonging. Over 140 people attended these events!

We broke bread together too. Mancos Creative District hosted a Harvest Dinner on Grand Avenue, which attended by over 100 local residents - spurring conversations across the table about what it means to each person to belong in our town.

Our grant from Arts in Society gave us the tremendous support we needed to leverage a project of this scale and caliber in our community. We would not have accomplished the work without this funding. The results have been tremendous! New projects around BELONGING have sprung up in our town and resulting in regional, statewide and national collaborations.

 

Funding the Arts in Colorado

Since 2016, Arts in Society has been funding individuals, grants, schools and government entities, with two-year grant awards of up to $50,000 per project. In addition to funding, grantees receive training, professional development, and marketing/social media support. Funding is offered to projects utilizing the arts as an integral element in promoting social justice and community welfare.

As a collaborative grant making program, Arts in Society is funded through a cohort of Colorado funders. 2019 funding partners include Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Hemera Foundation, and Colorado Creative Industries . Funds and support are administered via RedLine Contemporary Art Center in Denver.

Visit the Arts in Society website for more information, and to sign up for our occasional emails spotlighting our grantees, regional events, funding opportunities and more.

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