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Vocalo’s Storytelling Workshop: Summer 2022

Written by on August 17, 2022

Let our Storytelling Workshop participants whisk you away with their soundscapes…

Vocalo’s quarterly storytelling workshop returned this summer to offer hands-on audio production experience to Chicagoans who want to tell the stories of people making change in our community through creativity.

This summer’s Storytelling Workshop, led by Vocalo storytelling producer Ari Mejia and co-facilitated by artist and producer Ariana Martinez, was an overwhelming success and our participants were nothing short of inspiring. As a part of the workshop, they created audio segments telling stories of Chicago and the individuals who add to the cultural richness of our city. From burlesque to bike rides, these community storytellers broadcast the voices of individuals making an impact on Chicago from all over the city.

Get to know this summer’s participants and their pieces below.

Photo courtesy of Chris Walker

Chris Walker: “Welcome to the Hive”

Chris Walker explores the impact of the Fly Honey Show, a 12 year old burlesque-inspired body-positive cabaret and variety show. Chris is joined in conversation with two long standing cast members, Alyssa Gregory and Ginny Cook, and also their mom, Charlotte Walker, an invested fan of the show who was introduced to it by Chris. 

Chris Walker’s life work revolves around creating space for and uplifting marginalized communities in the arts and non-profit sectors. Equipped with a musician’s mind and museum exhibition background, complemented by business training, they center marginalized storytellers with a combination of production, technical direction, event coordination and marketing as head of exhibition and marketing and founding committee member of OTV, Open Television. OTV is a non-profit, Emmy-nominated streaming platform that supports the development of intersectional artists.

They’ve also been a musician for 20 years, playing the saxophone and guitar, and are currently studying at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Photo courtesy of Ella Beiser

Ella Beiser: “Subterranean Super Sale”

Amanda Englert sells all manner of oddities and baubles at her Subterranean Super Sale, located in the basement of her Hyde Park home. The sale has been a biannual event since Amanda was young and all of the funds go toward breast cancer charities. Ella Beiser talks with Englert about the origins of the sale, her mother’s battle with breast cancer and the mysterious objects that have come through the sale over the years.

Ella Beiser is a sophomore at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine studying politics and gender and sexuality studies. In her free time, she enjoys complaining about the half marathon she’s training for and listening to Mac Miller on repeat.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Igbo

Heidi Igbo: “My Old Flame”

Join Heidi Igbo as she revisits one of her first true loves, poetry. This series will explore three unique spoken word events around the city and their community of creatives. As they reminisce on their past and current relationship to the art form, she poses the burning question that she too is faced to answer, “What does poetry mean to you?”

Heidi Igbo is a Nigerian American and Chicago native with a taste for all things travel, food and horror movies. Heidi spends her free time exploring Chicago’s music scene, hidden bars and power napping.

Photo courtesy of Justin Swinson

Justin Swinson: “Streets Calling”

Having become an avid biker since the start of the pandemic, Justin Swinson joins the Streets Calling Bike Club, a Black-owned cycling club in Chicago. In “Streets Calling,” he explores what the bike club does for people – and for himself, as he documents his first ride with the group and interviews long-time members, as well as other newbies.

Justin Swinson is a Chicago based performer, writer and teaching artist originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland. He performs regularly at The Annoyance Theater, The Second City and hosts his own show at The Newport Theater. He would like to thank his friends, family and Rihanna for their continued support.

Matt Strasser: “Smashed Plastic”

In this piece, Matt Strasser sits down with Allie Klein and Dan Jarvis to reminisce about days of crate-digging and all things vinyl. From the pressing process, to supply-chain struggles and the local scene, Allie and Dan recount the story of Chicago’s only record pressing plant, Smashed Plastic.

Matt Strasser is a musician, music selector and lifelong weirdo. He is a former music director at KXLU, co-founder of How To Fight Records and current member of the features department at CHIRP Radio, while DJing under the pseudonym Ronald Pagan. Strasser spends his free time wandering the woods, collecting oddities and throwing down in the kitchen for his wife and daughter.

Photo courtesy of Mo Dunne

Mo Dunne: “Downtown Is For Youth Too”

Just in time for the summer of 2022, the Chicago City Council enacted a handful of policies to restrict youth from public spaces downtown and broaden the youth curfew ordinance — measures which, according to a youth organizer, a Chicago Public Schools teacher and City Council member, will lead to over-policing of teens of color and their exclusion from public life. Maureen Dunne explores the consequences of these changes on Chicago’s residents.

Maureen, or Mo, Dunne grew up on the Northwest Side and graduated from Lane Tech and DePaul University with a degree in journalism, mainly focused on writing. She plays cello with the Academy of Irish Music and anyone who wants to make music with her. She’s passionate about writing and understanding the impact of policy on real people from years as a political organizer and thousands of doors knocked across the country. Thank you for listening. 

Robin Reid Drake: “The Space Between Us”

In this brief and intimate oral portrait, Robin Reid Drake joins artist and Chicago icon Diana Solís as she reflects on her time in Mexico City’s early gay and lesbian liberation movement and the radical vision of her current photography practice.

Robin Reid Drake is a Chicago based poet and teaching artist originally from Greensboro, North Carolina. White, trans and queer, Drake is passionate about combining somatic abolitionism, creative practice and popular education to reckon with lines of violence in herself and her communities. You can find their work in DREGINALD and Foglifter Press’ Home is Where You Queer Your Heart, amongst others. For more, visit http://www.robinreiddrake.com.

Learn more about Vocalo’s quarterly Storytelling Workshop here.

2022 Workshop led by Ari Mejia and co-facilitated by Ariana Martinez

Introduction written by Makenzie Creden and Morgan Ciocca

Descriptions edited, some partially written by George Chiligiris

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