Who’s missing? Cultivating inclusive community engagement through storytelling and art

March 17, 2021

Equitable community projects ensure that everyone has a seat at the table — especially those voices that are often missing.  On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) gathered a panel of seasoned activists and artists for a conversation on achieving greater inclusivity in community engagement practices using storytelling and art.

Below you can watch the full video of Who’s missing? Cultivating inclusive community engagement through storytelling and art

Four communities from across the commonwealth were represented, sharing strategies, lessons from the field, practical tools, and answering inclusivity questions:

Lancaster (Salina Almanzar, educator, writer, and social justice advocate)

Artists are using inclusive engagement skills to create community-informed public works of art in Lancaster’s Latinx community. Almanzar will highlight the Seed Project, a new, five-year initiative, focused on BIPOC area artists, aiming to foster relationships among artists and creatives in Southeast Lancaster City.

Greater Carlisle (Cara Holtry Curtis, Archives and Library Director, Cumberland County Historical Society; Carmen James, Board President, Mt. Tabor Preservation Project)

Black residents were reluctant to share their stories about an abandoned church built by a former enslaved person. But a story-gatherer from the Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul project persuaded the Gumby family to bravely share their story, which led to church preservation efforts leading to its eventual designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Erie (Kelly Armor, Folklorist, Storyteller, Musician, Teaching Artist; Nibal Abd El Karim, Palestinian singer and educator)

Armor will highlight an outreach program she developed with the Erie Children’s Museum’s staff, volunteers, and New American artists to share stories through public art projects. This program built on the work of the Old Songs New Opportunities program, which empowers newcomers to share their indigenous knowledge to benefit the wider community.

Williamsport (Alice Trowbridge, Williamsport Heart & Soul Project Coordinator)

The Heart & Soul team used resident driven principles to unearth missing voices and engage all residents to determine shared values for community planning. The results included surprising outcomes including the emergence of new leaders.


The event was moderated by Ulysses Slaughter, PHC’s Senior Project Director.  Sarah Merritt, Director of PA Creative Communities at the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, delivered the introduction.

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