Exhibition at the ACT Heritage Library
255 Canberra Avenue, Fyshwick ACT
3 March 2021 - 30 April 2021
opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 5 pm
Saturdays 10 am - 4pm
A digital storytelling project always starts with a story circle. I have learned my art sitting in about 30 story circles over 10 years: humility, advanced listening, emotional honesty, careful negotiation of processes that help people feel safe, and an ear for the seeds of a story.
I’m still learning.
The ‘art of the story circle’ also refers to what begins to happen when people sit in a circle. As they tell a first version of their story and others listen, a community of collaborators forms, people gain confidence, and there is a collective breathing out. It’s often emotional, intimate, and deeply human. After a story circle I notice people make better eye contact, with brighter eyes, and I know a creative process has begun.
The first story circle generates the homework of writing a 450-word script. At the second workshop there is another story circle and people are invited to read out loud what they have written. It is amazing how much a script and a person can grow in two weeks! I witness giant steps of creativity and courage. I always bake a cake.
In 'The Art of the Story Circle' I am bringing a decade of work together in one place for the first time. I have had to look back over 112 digital stories, spanning 15 projects and their community partners, funding applications, evaluations, launches and sometimes awards. I have enjoyed a wonderful working partnership with PhotoAccess, and the stunning graphic designs of Fiona Edge have brought the stories together as published collections. I count my blessings for the trust people have placed in me, the richness of what people have shared and their generosity in publishing deeply personal (and often quirky) stuff. My world is a better place with these stories. I am moved, l learn, I remember, and I practice over and over walking in the shoes of somebody-not-me. That is the power of a digital story.
I celebrate that over 60 stories have been deposited with the ACT Heritage Library. They are a significant record of Canberra life and I do not think such records can exist without a structured process. The communities I work with often talk of being invisible. Unless they find safe and creative ways to find a voice and be heard, they will be invisible to history. My thanks to all who have made the invisible visible for posterity. And accessible too!
I have made digital stories with people who might never have used a camera or a computer. I have worked with the semi-literate, the non-verbal, and those drowning in an enormous story or paralysed by perfectionism. Stories beget other stories and I hope this exhibition will inspire others to participate in the arts even if they never imagined it possible.
I am now over 450 words. Time for the credits.
Digital storytellers x 112 and special thanks to those who have loaned me their treasures (Jennie Gordon, Genice Thorley, Ronnie Jordan, Lisa Madden, Laurie Drake, Rosie Klohs, Peter Hyndal, Sallyanne McLachlan, Maire Cooke, Diana Evans, Carlo Aggio, Dieter Amelung, Neil Sloan, Rosina Wainwright, John Olds, Kylie Moore, Rachel Moore, Tanya Halloran, Jan Moerkerke, Sarwat Maqbool, Dina Yulia)), PhotoAccess (Kirsten Wehner, Kate Matthews, Wouter van der Voorde, Janice Falsone, Megan Hinton, David Chalker), all the photography tutors (Steve Corey, Robert Agostino, Thea McGrath, Sean Davey, Ed Whalan) videography tutors (Di Martin, Tayla Blewitt-Gray, Ellie Windred, Laila Kazak), ArtSound FM (especaially Barbie Robinson), Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Design Edge, the ACT Heritage Library, community partners (CIT Yurauna Centre, Woden Community Service, the ACT Deafness Resource Centre, Domestic Violence Crisis Service, ADACAS, Inanna Inc, A Gender Agenda, Mental Illness Education ACT), the funding bodies (ACT Government, Snowy Hydro), Maya Haviland, the National Archives of Australia, CITSA Print, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, my family, and super-dooper intern student Meghan Conrick.