“We are reigniting that flame”

ISC sets seven-point plan for the future

Published in Herald & Tribune Oct. 29, 2014 issue

A mission that encouraged one executive director to move to Jonesborough continues to thrive, growing communities through new partnerships dedicated to continuing the oldest art form – storytelling.

“When you can bring 11,000 people together, it fosters a sense of community,” International Storytelling Center Executive Director Kiran Singh Sirah said. “That community spirit creates a better world.”

The center released “A Story in Progress,” which is the name of its strategic plan, last week highlighting seven steps: innovate, engage, grow, connect, educate, communicate and earn.

The communicate step is off on the right foot with a new digital communication strategy, which recently enhanced bringing the storytelling movement to the next generation.

“Google approached us because our name is getting out there,” he said. “They recognized us and wanted to give us recognition for the work that we are doing. That is because people have experienced things while they are here and they have gone out and told people.”

The partnership with Google’s Cultural Institute will help in sharing the story and history of the 42-year-old storytelling festival. The partnership places ISC among the White House, the British Museum and other cultural institutions that have had historical moments by making it accessible to online visitors.

The project, Sirah said made ISC assessable to 9million people instantly across the world.

He said by working with the Google team, they have created an enhanced street view of the center through Google Street View, as well as a tool to go into the ISC. When the Google team visited Jonesborough, they captured around 90,000 images for the panoramic navigational tool.

Another digital aspect occurred for the first time during this year’s International Storytelling Festival through live stream. That stream reached every arts agency in the United States, as well as Asia, east Africa and Europe.

“The National Endowment of the Arts made sure the information went to all 50 states,” he said.

The festival was also live streamed to hospitals, so people  not able to make the festival for different reasons could access access storytelling.

He said 3,000 to 5,000 people viewed the live streaming.

“These are people that may have never heard of Jonesborough,” Sirah said.

Some schools across the nation, he said, brought out the big screens to watch the festival while having live screening school parties.

“We planted seeds for a flourishing future,” he said.

Sirah said a new seed has been planted for the International Storytelling Center, one in which will not only enhance excellent storytelling programs, but also impact tourism in the Town of Jonesborough and Northeast Tennessee.

The “connect step” was also greatly enhanced through a new partnership.

ISC recently established a partnership with Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, which is scheduled to open in summer 2015 just minutes away from the theme parks.

The idea of opening the resort stems back to the childhood memories Dolly Parton had on her family’s front porch, telling stories.

“Dolly Parton’s newest hotel is to create a storytelling destination,”Sirah said.

The partnership with Dollywood initially came from communication Jimmy Neil Smith had years ago.

When Sirah started the position at ISC, he wanted to revisit that communication, which recently turned into establishing a formal partnership.

“It’s a kind of partnership based on mutual respect with each other,” he said. “If we can bring people to this region year round, think of the impact. It creates a stronger economic push for the Town of Jonesborough and the region as a whole.”

The partnership will include ISC assisting with training, performances and other special activities.

Dolly Parton,has her own “rags to riches” story that turns into giving back to the community.

“I like working with the idea of what Dolly Parton has done,” he said.

This year, Dollywood sponsored the family tent at the International Storytelling Festival.

The sponsorship focused on helping to nurture the next generation of storytellers, Sirah said, by fostering a sense of how stories can unite generations.

The oldest art form is flourishing again and creating a movement that has united storytelling across the world, according to Sirah.

“ISC is a great comeback story,” he said.“We are reigniting that flame.”

One of Sirah’s dreams, which coincides with the educate step, is to make storytelling assessable in every classroom through digitizing. By digitizing the work, he said, classrooms can see the link between such disciplines as technology and faith because stories tackle and explore them all.

“By using the digital process, it makes it available to classrooms across the world,” Sirah said.

The center is also working on an annual program with the National Endowment for the Arts, which could potentially include the annual winner of Poetry Out Loud at the annual festival.

The youngest storyteller, Anita Norman, performed at the festival this year. Norman was the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

“When you give young people the mechanism to have a voice and recognize what they have to say is important, it offers a sense of validation and recognition that they give and contribute in great ways,” he said. “When you recognize young people it gives them a pathway to have a voice.”




Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook-Off

Learn about Arizona history, while enjoying period food

Published in SanTan Sun News Nov. 1, 2014 issue

More than 8,000 people are expected to celebrate Arizona’s history with demonstrations, activities and, most importantly, authentic period food.

The fifth annual Chandler Chuck Wagon Cook-Off is set for Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9, at Tumbleweed Ranch at Tumbleweed Park, 2250 E. McQueen, Chandler.

Chuck Wagon4

Photograph provided to the SanTa Sun News

The cook-off was inspired by cook Dave McDowell’s passion for outdoor food creations, says Jean Reynolds, public history coordinator for the Chandler Museum.

“He also wanted to come up with an event that would make a little bit of money to go back to the museum to help with education,” Reynolds says.

The event supports the educational development of Tumbleweed Ranch.

“We do the event to preserve our western history and Arizona history that goes back to the late 19th century with the whole idea of cowboys, ranching and cooking on the trail.”

Since 2000, McDowell has competed in chuck wagon cook-offs in Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming.

“We have about seven to 10 wagons here in the state that are always looking for an event to compete in,” McDowell says. ”There was a big gap in the fall schedule. We thought the Tumbleweed Ranch would be a great place to do it.”

He was the driving force in bringing the annual Chuck Wagon Cook Off to the Chandler area. The first year, it attracted four wagons. But, he adds, “we have made some great progress.”

On Friday, the activities will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The morning will focus on tours with school groups and senior citizens.

Later that morning, cooks will demonstrate different ways to cook turkeys outdoors.

“It’s a unique way to do a Thanksgiving dinner,” she says. Friday evening a campfire glow will be held at 6 p.m. with Arizona troubadour Wally Bornmann, a cowboy singer and storyteller, around the fire with s’mores.

The event on Saturday runs from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The main Saturday attraction features 12 chuck wagons competing for awards based on appearance, taste and texture of period food. The teams will cook and prepare their own unique meal, which includes meat, bread, potatoes, beans and a dessert. Reynolds says each chuck wagon makes about 50 meals.

Chuck Wagon2“We provide them with the main ingredients,” Reynolds says. “They have their own spices.”

Tickets, which are $12 for the meal, go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday morning and typically sell out within the hour.

On Sunday, many of the same activities and demonstrations as the previous days will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, a 10 a.m. breakfast will consist of a three-course meal of potatoes, eggs, biscuits and gravy.

In the afternoon, 18 kids will participate in a junior cook-off, during which they work with wagon teams to create a peach cobbler with a Dutch oven.

Television personality and Times Media Group food columnist Jan D’Atri will provide a cooking demonstration in the afternoon.

For more information, visit www. chandleraz.gov/chuckwagon.


“Arguably stand the test of time”

Murals highlight Jonesborough events

Published in Herald & Tribune June 3, 2014 issue

A splash of color has been added to the wrought iron fence behind Boone Street Market bringing additional character to downtown Jonesborough through the images of murals.

McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons said an unveiling of the murals took place May 23 in conjunction with The Farmers Market open house.

“The plaza has been redone for a couple of years now,” she said. “The original idea was to have the murals there. It really makes the plaza look fantastic.”

Bill Bledsoe, who designed the four murals, said the Town of Jonesborough had asked him if he had any ideas for the metal dividers that are a part of the accent wall. He said over the years he and his wife have walked past the buildings and dividers more than 100 times, as ideas have formulated in his mind of what could be done.

Since there are so many events that take place in Jonesborough that are related to seasons, he thought each panel could represent winter, spring, summer and fall.

“I created an illustration that references the Garden Gala, the Jonesborough Days, storytelling and the Progressive Dinners,” Bledsoe said.

The first series of murals was created as miniature drawings. He said those original pieces were enlarged and received very well.

In an effort to involve students from both the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts and Providence Academy, Bledsoe drew out the schematic of the image in thick black marker. He said the idea was to have the youngsters paint between the lines in any color they chose.

Thirty students from the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts at the McKinney Center contributed to one of the murals, while Bledsoe’s students from Providence Academy left their artistic touches on the remaining three.

“We had students this semester that were taking basic drawing, studio art, hand building clay and mosaic classes,” Hammons said.

She said the McKinney Center hosted a student art exhibition reception on May 8, which also included the opportunity for the students to paint some color onto the mural.

“All of those students came that evening and helped paint the murals,” Hammons said. “We had refreshments and drinks, and then they painted.”

Bledsoe also worked with his secondary students at Providence throughout the week so they could be included in the process. He said his students were intimately involved in the process as they watched him work on the mural, as well as having a personal hand in the creation.

“They watched me compose it and do it as a blind contour and refine it and develop the line drawing,” Bledsoe said.

The students used the primary colors of red, yellow and blue paints for the murals.

“When you look at all those oranges, greens and purples, they were all made from red, yellow and blue,” he said.

Once the colors, drawings and sayings were completed on the murals, Bledsoe painted a glaze on top.

“I had to go back on top of them and work on them,” he said. “I did layers, so the writing and colors could be seen when you get up close to it.”

Bledsoe said he was very happy with how the murals turned out, especially the Jonesborough Days mural, which was his favorite.

“It is so powerful when you look at it from a distance,” he said. “When you get up to it, you see the colors.”

The murals, Bledsoe said are pieces of artwork that can arguably stand the test of time and mean something to the people of Jonesborough for years to come.

Karen Childress, executive director of Boone Street Market, said in conjunction with the unveiling of the artwork and the celebration of the beautification of the plaza, Jonesborough Locally Grown announced that the renovation and expansion of the Boone Street Market will begin in June.

“The reason we are at the jumping off point (and) able to start renovation, is that Jonesborough Locally Grown has had a successful fundraising campaign, raising close to $80,000 earmarked for the building renovation through the support of individuals, civic clubs, organizations, businesses and the county commission,” she said.

Those who attended the store “before” open house also had an opportunity to see the building before renovations began, as well as an opportunity to preview the project’s floor plan.

Childress said they are turning the garage area into the sales and display floor for the grocery store area, which will have an assortment of food products produced within 100 miles of Jonesborough. The floor plan also showed the current restroom area being gutted and turned into kitchen space.

“The current entry door will be an itsy bitsy cafe area as you go into the store,” Childress said.

The building will also have the addition of new restrooms and storage areas.

“The whole store idea is not a replacement of the Saturday market, it’s an expansion of it,” she said. “It will compliment the Saturday market.”

An announcement also was made regarding the Friends of Locally Grown during the “before” open house. Memberships are $50 annually and are available at the Saturday market or online at http://www.jonesborough.locallygrown.net.

Childress said the memberships will support the start up and ongoing operating costs of the store and Jonesborough Locally Grown. All members will receive a 5 percent discount on store purchases once the store opens.

The market is tentatively scheduled to open sometime in July, and a job description for a full-time manager to staff the store will be publicized in June.