"Fish Stories" Workshops Make a Splash

Everyone has a story to tell, and this summer Arts & Education at the Hoyt is listening.

The Hoyt began a series of 3 workshops for seniors this week in partnership with New Castle Challenges: Options in Aging. The workshops each address a different aspect of the storytelling process, from writing to visual and performing arts.

The project has been dubbed “Fish Stories” because of the nature of these long-winded tales that grow longer and longer the more often they are told, as well as their connection with the river that is such an integral part of this town and its history. These sometimes exaggerated stories are passed down through the generations and become a part of our culture, seamlessly blending fact and folklore in their historical accounts. The art of storytelling is one as old as time, borrowed from our ancestors, yet still alive today.

"Who better to tell the stories of a community than it's elders?" dance director Shari Mastalski commented. "Younger people have much to learn through these festive, sometimes exaggerated stories of days gone by.  There are lessons and big ideas to be found.  It's a way to connect generations together."

The workshops are part of a dance residency project led by Shari Mastalski. The end goal of the 9-week courses is an inter-generational dance performance to be revealed at the annual Arts on the Riverwalk Festival in September. Mastalski’s objective is to translate the seniors’ stories into visual arts projects that will be on display at the festival, as well as crafting a dance that relays a collective New Castle “fish tale.”

Tales that are passed down through generations can grow bigger in the telling and gain universal significance.  I love combining stories and movement, so I call my art form Story-Dancing.  There will be both a story-telling component and a movement component in the residency at Challenges, but they will interconnect through the idea of story. 
— Shari Mastalski

This week, dozens of Lawrence County seniors showed up to the workshops bright-eyed and excited to begin the process of telling their stories and turning them into art. Participants took a walk down memory lane with rich accounts of growing up in the New Castle community, then kept the energy going through a dance class that left them beaming with childlike joy. The first week's workshops ended with an art class where seniors worked with their hands to create glass mosaics as unique as their personalities.

Over the course of this program, New Castle seniors will be reliving some of their most integral stories and sharing them with the community. And if this first week is any indication, they will be having loads of fun along the way!

Keep checking back for project updates throughout the summer and stay tuned for snippets of the stories you will hear and see at the Arts on the Riverwalk Festival Saturday, Sept. 9!