It’s a new space that’s a cross between a living room, art gallery and coffee shop with story-based exhibits featuring local residents’ interesting and inspiring stories. Read on for more!
Cincy Chic: What is the Avondale Story Gallery?
Shawn Braley, Executive Director of Cincy Stories: The Avondale Story Gallery is a mix between a living room, art gallery and coffee shop with story-based “exhibits” featuring the stories of Avondale residents around the space. We intentionally created this space to feel like a neighborhood living room: comfortable, simple, and relaxing. Around the space, we’ve “hidden” stories via touch screens, rotary phones, walkmen, and antique tape players. Each interactive storytelling mechanism gives folks the opportunity to hear stories from those who call Avondale home. But ultimately, we want folks who enter the space to connect with one another. So we have story starters, prompts for stories on cards, placed around the space. We hope folks will hang out, share a story or two with one another and leave having new friends. Especially for those who call Avondale home. This entire project is a way to both amplify the stories of Avondale out to the rest of the city while building community and connecting neighbors within their particular neighborhood.
Cincy Chic: What inspired the Avondale Story Gallery?
Braley: Cincy Stories exists to build community through story. We were inspired by reading the Cincinnati is the 5th most segregated city in our country. We believe that storytelling is the antidote to that problem. The more we share stories, the more we’ll know each other, and the more we’ll be willing to do life with one another. No matter our background or differences. This space is inspired by concept of third spaces. A third space is the space you go for community and connection outside of work and home. Think of “Cheers,” where everyone knows your name. We believe our city has many great third spaces, but they almost exclusively cater to one people group. So we wanted to take the vision for a third space into being a space where folks of different backgrounds interact.
Cincy Chic: Who’s behind the new exhibit?
Braley: Cincy Stories is behind it. We’re a non-profit working to building community through story. We do this by hosting events around town, creating documentary media and engaging the community through this neighborhood project. We’ve been an organization for almost 4 years and have continued to expand around our city.
Cincy Chic: What is it like to visit the gallery?
Braley: So, this gallery literally does feel like a living room. We have comfortable, vintage furniture, we have coffee and soft drinks and snacks. There’s always someone there to interact with you if you’d like. If you’d rather relax, that’s welcome to. There’s no pressure to engage with the stories or not. We just want people to feel safe and comfortable. It’s also unique that we’re in an office building but you enter through the side door. We wanted the space to feel a little like a hidden secret, so we don’t have folks enter in the front and go through some lobby, we have them enter directly into our space.
Cincy Chic: How has the public received it thus far?
Braley: It has been great. Our main work is with the community of Avondale and we get a good portion of new folks and regulars in every day that we’re open (Weds-Saturday 12pm-7pm). People get excited when they find out about it and have actually called people on the spot to invite them to share and watch stories. It has been really exciting to see the space be embraced by Avondale.
Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon for Cincy Stories?
Braley: We’re always dreaming up new ways to engage the community. We’ve recently built a program called Young Voices of Cincinnati that we’re doing in Lower Price Hill in conjunction with Santa Maria and Community Matters. This program is for teenagers in Lower Price Hill to learn how to create media. We’ve started by developing a podcast called YVC Radio that will be released beginning in the fall. The teens find, source and interview their own stories, we’re just there to teach and facilitate the process. We intend to grow this into video next and create a youtube channel where they create their own content.