Produced by WDET, Detroit's NPR Station

Community storytelling using a simple formula

Community storytelling using a simple formula
December 1, 2015 Courtney Hurtt

Framed by WDET pushes the boundaries of radio and is designed to connect people through the work of Detroit-based photographers and storytellers as they create opportunities for local communities to see their own story validated, elevated and reflected through their art.

The concept evolved from an ongoing relationship WDET had with documentary photographer Kenny Karpov, who met with WDET General Manager Michelle Srbinovich and I in 2014 to pitch the idea of capturing visual story of Hamtramck’s Bangladeshi community through the lens of local dress shops. She gave us the OK, and that’s when it all began.

Together we travel from shop to shop reporting on the amazing stories of these store owners and the community they serve – both allowing their stories to be heard and also creating an opportunity for listeners around the region to engage with a neighborhood they might have never visited otherwise.

 

Taken by Kenny “Karpov” Corbin

From the start, it was a pretty simple formula: Photography + Audio Stories presented in the communities that the work is about.

Our idea evolved from a digital story to something more integrated. It also became something that community members could also experience in Hamtramck with an interactive feature that would integrate with WDET’s Crossing the Line news series.

In May, The Dress Show exhibition appeared at Public Pool, a store-front art gallery located less than a few blocks from the shops covered in this series and featured sixteen portraits and scenic images, accompanied by eight oral vignettes and displays of traditional Bangladeshi wear. It was a success with over 300 people showing up to the opening event, including members of the Bangladeshi community. 

Later on that year, we partnered with the Islamic Society of North America Convention which was coming to Detroit in August. We were able to re-install with a mobile listening experience (using Medium) at this conference that brought together over 15,000 people from around the world.

At each point of its evolution, we worked as a team to think intentionally about how this work could be made accessible to the community it captured and modular so it could appear on all of WDET’s platforms– on-air, online, and in-person.

In late November, Kenny worked with storyteller Laura Herberg to use the same formula to explore Delray, a Detroit neighborhood that would be affected by the state of Michigan and Canada’s plan to build the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

 

Exhibition at Gallerie Camille, Taken by Courtney Hurtt

The Delray: Beyond Isolation exhibition first appeared at Delray Neighborhood House, and later it appeared at a newly-opened gallery in Midtown Detroit. These galleries attracted current and former Delray residents as well as individuals who had never been to the neighborhood. By aligning the series with news coverage of the development of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), attendees were able to see and hear the voices of everyday people affected by this story.

It was the success of these projects that led to a Knight Arts Challenge matching grant from the The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2014 and a project grant from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts 2015.

Over the next two years, we this idea will continue to evolve through a series of eight audio-visual exhibitions that will travel throughout our region. Learn how you can support this project here.

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