Painting the Tale Print E-mail

Painting the Tale (PTT) is the art program established at Pacesetters, Inc to tap into the talents of individuals who had never been considered before.  Professional artists, both visual and performance were contracted to evaluate the individuals and teach a variety of Visual Art skills, and Storytelling.

Through the visual Arts part of PTT several individuals have created, and sold, many different pieces of art.  Guest artists have collaborated with individuals one on one, but every individual at Pacesetters can participate in Painting the Tale.    Pacesetters service recipients have access to the arts programs in all of the facility based services sites. Their art work has been displayed at local galleries as well as the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the Frist Center in Nashville, the Nashville Airport, in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Ga.  Their art is presently displayed at the DIDS Central Office in Nashville.   Through the Storytelling part of PTT many individuals have had the opportunity to participate in plays that have been performed at Pacesetters facilities, the Putnam County Library and several nursing homes and schools in the Putnam and White County area.

In July 2013, the year began with Arts Committee members, Bill Toye, Kathy Lee, Sherry Sturgill, Cathy Presley, Marcia Donovan, Merritt Ireland, and James Dial, meeting to choose the annual story.  Merritt wanted to focus artwork on elephants or polar bears.  As most elephant stories were from Africa, and last year’s story was the African tale, “Why Mosquitoes Buzz”, Marcia narrowed her Internet search to polar bear stories.  The Art Committee chose the Scandinavian tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” for its many characters and turns of plot.  In August, Marcia told the story for the first time during Storytelling class and White County individuals visited an “East of the Sun” exhibit at MTSU which inspired and informed art created in Art Classes through the year.

White County at MTSU
Ricky Kirouac
Paul Miktarian

In September, the Committee explored possible visual art projects and storytelling elements to expand the focus story and its representative culture.  Creation of art for performance backdrops, props, costumes, masks and hats, as well as for exhibition and sale, began in Art Classes by individuals. Since a stove with ceramic tiles and fish were key elements of the focus story, the fall Art Classes made fish prints and murals, as well as faux tiles with Norwegian designs for a possible performance backdrop.  Many individuals made troll masks with Merritt. Art was exhibited this year by Paul Miktarian at the Cookeville Art Prowl in November and the Tennessee Artists’ League in Nashville in July.  There was a group exhibit of polar bears at Art a la Carte in December.  At Earth Wares in Cookeville, there was an exhibit of ceramic polar bears in July and of  Norwegian print designs, and a selection of best work from the last 3 years,  in August.

During the fall, weekly Storytelling classes exposed individuals to stories and songs linked by a seasonal, holiday or cultural theme.  Individuals gained experience in listening to the storyteller and each other, and by participating through relevant comment, singing, gesture and movement, improving social interaction skills and coordinating word, voice and movement in the communication of meaning. 

As Christmas approached Marcia realized that “East of the Sun” would require detailed dialog by too many characters so the search resumed for a less complex polar bear story.  “The Polar Bear and the Trolls” is mostly a tale from Norway with the addition of images from Swedish and German versions, and a Norwegian children’s song about sneaking up on a bear.  January through March, Storytelling classes involved reading, telling and acting out the story using temporary costumes, props, hats and masks.   Gestures, movements, additional content and dialog were tried out and individuals practiced the “Bear Is Sleeping” song.

First reading 2-17-2014
Possible Troll Noses
Karen Simpson, Renee Steele,
Bradley Styer, Katie Collins

Also in February, as performance practices began, the individuals participated in sessions with guest artists, funded by a Cookeville Arts Council grant, which enriched their exploration of the focus story and culture and expanded story performance skills. They made ceramic polar bears with Macon County Visual Artist Linda Johnson, now a regular Arts Program artist, and used scarves, instruments, and other props with Dancer Travis Jarrell to explore movement.

Linda Johnson Ceramic Bears
Scarf Dance
Debbie Keith, Susan Jasper, Travis Jarrell,
Bradley Styer, Cathy Decaussin, Troy Husky

At the end of March, Visual Art and Storytelling components came together in a Dress Rehearsal at the Putnam Center.  Performance troll masks and the polar bear costume created by Dancer and Costumer, Travis Jarrell, were used.

Ricky Kirouac, Travis Jarrell
Randy Bonham
Bradley Styer,  Karen Simpson

During the weeks of April 7-17 2014, Pacesetters Players of Putnam and White County gave 12 performances of  “The Polar Bear and the Trolls”, a Norwegian folktale, adapted by Putnam and White County Pacesetters with Storyteller, Marcia Donovan, and Visual Artist, Merritt Ireland, at Morningside of Cookeville, Cedar Hills Senior Living, Algood Senior Center, Algood Headstart, Sycamore Elementary, White County Library in Sparta, Putnam and White County Pacesetters Centers, and the Putnam County Library. Total audience included 341 adults, 150 preschoolers, 81 K-4 students, 15 middle school and 7 high school students.  There were 94 individuals with disabilities, and 62 were seniors.  The total audience included 187 individuals at Putnam County Library as part of its annual National Library Week celebration: 110 adults, 44 preschoolers, 11 K-4 students, 15 middle school and 7 high school students.  Total audience, which came from Putnam, and White Counties, was 594 with 113 questionnaires returned.

White County Library
Putnam County Library

In May the Committee discussed evaluation results, ways to strengthen and improve future performances and projects.  Next year, microphone use and new venues, such as Backdoor Playhouse, Wesley Center, First United Methodist Church Activity Center, will be explored. New audiences, such as the FUMC Hope Class, will be cultivated and tighter scheduling for audience comfort at PCL performances, will be used.  In June and July, the Visual Arts classes had a summer break.  Storytelling continued through the summer with the telling of past focus stories, like “Rabbit’s House”, to take advantage of a commonality of experience as a stimulus for communication.

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