Mindy Halleck

Im a storyteller. Most of my friends are storytellers; playwrights, poets, novelist, singers, songwriters, and artists of all mediums.  We all tell stories for different reasons, and yet for the same purpose, storytelling aids us in understanding the world around us.

Storytelling predates writing. The most primitive forms of storytelling were usually oral expressions. Storytellers come in many forms, with many voices and tools, from poetry and literature to graffiti and fine art. We need storytellers, artist and writers, to elicit passion and emotions, especially in dark times when we can so easily avert our eyes from troubling events like a cultural revolution, rebellion, social injustice, corrupt politicians, police brutality, the imprisonment or genocide of an entire people.

Though the ancient origins of storytelling have vanished into the mist of time, the importance of storytelling and those who tell stories has not. From cave dwellings to the recontours of Native Indian lore, families and cultures with strong narratives and passionate tellers, thrive in their collective story.

Think about times spent sitting around the kitchen table with your family your witnesses on this journey as they tell and retell all the often cringe-worthy memories of you as a child, or their experiences during the Great Depression, or whatever the family stories are. Think how bonding that is/was, how it informed your sense of who you are and where you come from. At my grandmas house, all of us crowded into the yellow-vinyl kitchen booth, drank weak Folgers coffee, my aunts chain-smoked Salem cigarettes, and talked like mag-pies grandma always said. And at that jam-packed table every story started with I remember that time you.

Capturing and retelling the stories of our collective history is vital to understanding our existence on this planet trust me, when grandma is gone, youre gonna wish you took notes, and youre gonna remember with heartache and joy, every story she ever told you. Our stories are important.

Storytelling is vital to the human experience. It allows us to digest information with greater ease by more effectively linking that information to our feelings and then our thoughts. Generally, once weve felt something, we dont forget it. I recall years ago, seeing the movie,Dead Man Walking, and how when my friends and I left the theater we talked about the death penalty, I recall feeling very differently about that controversial topic after seeing one mans poignant story.

One of the reasons I wrote my novel,Return to Senderwas to reiterate the history (lest we are doomed to repeat it), and the stories I grew up with as the child of aKorean Warveteran, about the atrocities of the brutal North Koreans against their own people, and most especially against their own orphans. A topic as timely today (sadly) as it was in the 1950s. In my novel I paid tribute to the most haunting aspect of the Korean War for both my father and my father-in-law; the slaughter of innocent children by their own people. Havingthese precious photographsof many of these children made their stories personal to me.

There are certain aspects of history that resonate deeply with all of us. For example, my talented neighbors,JanandChris Hopkins, who make a great mead (home-made wine), but who are also internationally recognized, multi-award-winning artists, illustrators and storytellers. Their most recent creative endeavor of depicting theWWII internment of the Japanese in America,was motivated by Jans desire to learn more about her cultural identity. As a child of detained Japanese Americans, there was a lack of information about her family legacy and the ordeal of internment that they endured. Jan needed to know her story, so she and Chris have set out on a mission to share their stories through visual arts. Their joint exhibit atEveretts Shack Center for the Artsstarts June 21st thru September 2018.

Chris is a historian through his art. His paintings tell very specific aspects of the American story that resonate with

him on a soulful level. He captures moments that harken back to moments like this young Japanese-American woman who is pregnant, alone and just relocated to an internment camp what does the future hold for her and her unborn child now that her country (America) has turned on her? It is important to humankind to keep those stories alive so they never happen again.

Chris also painted an entire series of over 60 paintings of the Tuskegee Airmen which travels the country in art shows, like locally at theShack Center in Everett. The Tuskegee Airmen series portrays the adventures of the first African American fighter pilots, their crews, families and legacy.

As an illustrative historian Chris has captured this pivotal moment in time; At the onset of World War II, the segregated US armed forces declined to train African Americans as pilots until a lawsuit opened the door. The Army Air Corps acquiesced to an experiment training pilots at Tuskegee University, Alabama. In March 1942 the first class of African-American aviation cadets earned their silver wings and became the nations

first black military pilots. Between 1941 and 1945, Tuskegee trained over 1,000 black aviators for the war effort. Chris started hisTuskegee Airmenseries as part of his work for the Northwest chapter of the Air Force Art program. Over the years, the series evolved beyond the Air Force Art program to become a personal mission and passion for him. Every one of these paintings tells us a vital part of our history; who we were, who we are now, how far weve come, and sadly how far we have to go.

Or below, this modern-day image, social commentary, where a homeless mother and her child sit starving on the steps of the land of plenty, a posh bakery, where inside, too busy to notice, are two girls on their phones. Just as I tell stories with words, Chris uses images, and is a perceptive storyteller of our times, the good and the bad.

Regardless of medium or craft, storytelling is significant because it can illuminate moral, ethical, spiritual lessons in non-preachy ways that people can easily contemplate. Great stories engender empathy by helping people relate to someone they may never have connected with before.

Just as important as our intimate family stories are in reminding us where our faith and courage comes from be it strong Scottish, Jewish, Irish, or French roots and what our ancestors overcame, its also vital to keep historic stories alive so we never forget what our fears and prejudices can become.

What stories matter to you? Tell them.

And, big kudos to my neighbor;Art Work by Chris Hopkins Selected for Inclusion in Major Traveling Exhibition Organized byNorman Rockwell Museum Reimagining the Four Freedoms

In 2017, theNorman Rockwell Museumin Stockbridge, Massachusetts, sent out a call to artists to create works that would reimagine President Roosevelts Four FreedomsFreedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear or explore the meaning of freedom today, for possible inclusion in the major touring exhibition: Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms. From 1000 submissions, 36 artists were acceptedincluding two works by local artist, Chris Hopkinsfor the contemporary section of the exhibition, titled Reimagining the Four Freedoms.

In our time of troubling HOMELESSNESS in a country of plenty, this painting is particularly poignant.

If you liked this please share, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Tweet it out. Thanks. Mindy

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This entry was posted inFiction Writing, write to heal, survivorand taggedamwriting,art shows,chris hopkins,fiction,jan hopkins art,norman rockwell exhibit,shack center,storytellers,storytelling,writing.

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