In the wake of Irene, the Vermont Folklife Center initiated the Story Circles Project, bringing our experience and expertise to bear in a collective community healing effort through storytelling. Over the course of a year we facilitated Story Circles in 14 communities, from Wilmington to Waterbury, recording for posterity the experiences of more than 140 Vermonters.
In partnership with the Story Circle communities we conceived an exhibit that explores Vermonters’ personal and community relationships with rivers—opening an opportunity for personal introspection and community conversation around the role of rivers in shaping Vermont communities, as well as the impact of Irene in framing future challenges. “The Power of Water” includes digital projections of Creative Commons-licensed photographs taken by novice, amateur, and professional Vermont photographers; river management materials created by river scientist, Amy Sheldon, and filmmaker, Joseph Defelice; narrative “tiles” from the Floodgates Art Project in Waterbury; images of Rochester created by noted photographer, John Penwarden; photographs and text curated by residents from Rochester, Mendon, Waterbury, and Wilmington; and audio excerpts from Story Circles sessions recorded by the Vermont Folklife Center in those communities.
Vermonters are encountering difficult questions about sustainable community planning, river conservation and management, and flood mitigation. Our objective is to use this exhibit as a platform that will stimulate awareness and conversation around these questions.