Saint Louis Story Stitchers
Since 2013, The Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective has served as a haven for artists and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) youth ages 16-24, working together to create social change with a focus on gun violence prevention. Gun violence continues to be a pressing public health crisis that consumes the attention of the engaged youth, and artistic expression helps youth work through the pain and loss they have experienced.
Stitchers collect stories, reframe and retell them through art, writing and performance to promote understanding, civic pride, intergenerational relationships and literacy. The organization’s goal is to promote a better educated, more peaceful and caring region through storytelling.
Story Stitchers is the current recipient of a Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund’s three-year, $100,000 grant, awarded in 2020. A specific aim of the SOS grant was to build out a podcast studio, as well as to provide training and support to youth in developing podcast programs. The grant has enabled the purchase of essential equipment and supplies for the “StitchCast Studio,” workshops by teaching artists and mentoring by professional artists.
The StitchCast Studio launched in April 2020, and published 42 episodes during the 2020/2021 grant period and 53 during the 2021/2022 grant year. Nearly 100 Story Stitchers youth have participated in podcasting from the StitchCast Studio as well as a variety of other locations, including Laumeier Sculpture Park, National Blues Museum and many public libraries. The podcasts have provided the opportunity for Stitchers youth to engage with civic and community leaders from many professions and disciplines, representing health care, education, art, parks and conservation, and law enforcement.
According to Story Stitchers staff, the SOS grant has “put them on a growth trajectory,” slowed only by the pandemic. But perhaps the most meaningful demonstration of their success is from the voices of their young participants, speaking about the impact of their participation as a StitchCast podcaster:
“It really showed me the back end of people’s opinions and how their views are actually different from your own …. It’s just different diversities of opinions. It kind of showed me another view of the business side of certain people, the medical field, the different job levels, different people that we met doing different podcasts and stuff.”
“When you get to the StitchCast Studio…I ain’t going to lie to you, I know for a fact when I came, I was anxious…. I wasn’t good at public speaking. So knowing that my voice was going to be heard by a bunch of people I don’t even know? I was like, ‘I don’t know, man.’ But it works, you know what I’m saying? StitchCast Studios builds a whole different type of confidence in me. And I don’t know about y’all, but this journey, it’s helped me find out a lot about myself.”
Story Stitchers recently relocated to “The Center,” a space in Grand Center supported in part by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, where Saint Louis Story Stitchers is a resident arts organization. To learn more about Story Stitchers and listen to recent podcasts, go to www.storystitchers.org. Live podcasting will be accessible this spring at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/stitchcast-studio-live-tickets-504563461897.