By Jacob Clinkscales, Storycatchers Teaching Artist
“Stories have the power to create empathy within us, and over time, people begin to see the world through the eyes of the ones they have opposed.”
In June, Storycatchers teaching artists, myself included, performed at the Santa Fe Art Institute’s (SFAI) The Art of Change. This event brought together artists of many disciplines who strive to create social change through their work. Ira Glass–host of the popular radio show This American Life, a longtime friend of Storycatchers, and the event’s moderator–offered the above thoughts on the power of story. His words deeply resonated with me.
As a storyteller, I have spent countless hours stepping into the shoes of others. In theatre, empathy is often the guiding force behind performing challenging roles.
However, The Art of Change invited me to think about art and understanding as a means to ignite social change on a larger scale.
The artists who discussed their work at this event showed me just how transformative the arts can be. Quenna Barrett discussed her performance piece which rewrote the Declaration of Independence from the point of view of an African American woman. Jackie Munro, a filmmaker who helps pregnant women recovering from addiction, spoke to the resilience of voices that refuse to remain unheard.
In our performance, we told the story of a young man’s journey from living life in the streets to being incarcerated and suffering from trauma. When his story was finally heard and recognized, he began to heal from his lack of emotional support, mental abuse, and the harrowing experience of incarceration.
After the show, an audience member shared with me our performance’s impact, as she has a younger sibling who is serving juvenile life at the age of 15: “I’ve been sorta reluctant to talk to him, but now I feel like I can understand what may be going on inside his head. Thank you.”
In his closing remarks, Glass noted, “We have such an intolerance to listening to each other today.”
But this event proved that we can overcome this. People can change their perceptions and be united by stories. So it’s up to us to tell some good ones.