Parks Come Alive’ celebrates the iconic urban parks in St. Louis through creative storytelling
St. Louis, Mo. – The St. Louis Storytelling Festival, a University of Missouri Extension Community Arts Program, brings world-class storytellers together for four days of lively fun. But did you know that the Festival also provides great opportunities for learning about some of the most historic, iconic institutions in St. Louis?
This year, our 38th annual Festival highlights the long-standing collaboration between the Festival and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial with “Parks Come Alive”, an NEA-funded project that celebrates the centennial of the National Park Service in St. Louis. The performances and artwork created throughout “Parks Come Alive” will be presented on May 6, 2017, at 2 locations: 11 am – 2 pm, at the Old Courthouse Rotunda, AND at 1 pm at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. The day’s events are free and open to the public.
Storytelling has always been a part of the interpretive work that happens at national parks. In fact, Bobby Norfolk, one of the region’s most recognizable storytellers, was himself a park ranger at the Gateway Arch years ago. In the summer of 2016, Norfolk kicked off “Parks Come Alive” with workshops and coachings for present-day seasonal park rangers to help them develop their interpretive storytelling skills and make park exhibits come alive for visitors.
Other well-known regional storytellers like Angela Williams and Gladys Coggswell use their talents to educate and inform park visitors about stories that have gone unheard or that have not been fully represented. Both Angela and Gladys tell personal and historic stories from Missouri’s African-American communities, in addition to collecting and documenting many of these stories.
Storytelling is also part of the visitor experience as well. The project continued in the fall and winter as professional storytellers worked with youth in schools and other community organizations to develop their own creative storytelling projects from a visitor’s perspective. Groups first visited the park grounds to reflect on the content and themes of the park exhibits, and what these sites mean to them today in their own lives. Then they worked with professional storytellers to develop creative projects that narrated their experiences.
Finally, the Arch Builders, the original workers who climbed the scaffolding, welded the steel, and tested the integrity of the structures in sometimes dangerous conditions, have their own, often overlooked stories to share. As part of our project, we interviewed the Builders to begin capturing some of these stories for the historical record.
On May 6, all of these projects will be presented and on display at two National Park locations in St. Louis:
The Old Courthouse, 11. North 4th Street, St. Louis, MO 63102. 11 am – 2 pm.
- 11 am – 12 pm: Park Rangers share stories, emceed by Bobby Norfolk.
- 12 pm – 1 pm: Community arts projects created by Grand Center Arts Academy Students, Adams Park Boys and Girls Club youth, and Saint Louis Story Stitchers Urban Storytelling Troupe.
- 1 pm – 2 pm: Meet the Arch Builders, informal story-sharing and panel discussion. Reception follows at 2 pm.
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, 7400 Grant Rd, St. Louis, MO 63123. 1 pm.
- 1 pm – 2 pm: Storytellers Gladys Coggswell and Angela Williams share stories of the African-American experience in Missouri’s history.
- Ongoing: Artwork from Cedar Springs Elementary School students will be on display throughout the St. Louis Storytelling Festival.
Please join us in these free events, and learn more about St. Louis’ iconic urban national parks! Please RSVP to Diane Weber, Education Specialist, JNEM, at 314-241-1244, ext. 107, or by email at [email protected]. We look forward to seeing you!