Center for Story offers a seat to all listeners

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A new cultural arts facility, the Center for Story, will have an emphasis on storytelling and seeks to create space for Orem library programs that serve Utah Valley.

Some of these programs include storytelling performance, readers’ theater, dance, lectures, film screenings and discussions, art exhibits and touring cultural exhibits.

“The Center for Story will provide a seat for everyone, room for everyone to experience those programs,” said Louise Wallace, director of the Orem Public Library. “It will have great acoustics and great sight lines. It will be a much better facility.”

The facility will expand the current library performing space,  originally designed to seat 120 people, to have 290 seats on the main floor with a balcony that will seat an additional 95 people.

“This will be a great addition to the community,” Wallace said. “The programs we present are unique to the library, they’re not offered any place else in the community.”

The majority of funding for the Center for Story comes from individual donors and a substantial portion will also come from an Orem tax program called the cultural arts and recreation tax, or CARE tax.

A benefit storytelling event took place on Nov. 18 to raise funds from individual donors and to involve the community in the development of the facility.

“We offered to donate money, and the city was able to donate money toward the building as well,” said Karen Acerson, executive director of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. “We’re doing small benefits like this that will slowly chip away at the amount. We provide some fun events that people can go to and at the same time raise some money.”

The event consisted of an auction of local artwork followed by storytelling. The highlight of the evening was a story told by professional storyteller Donald Davis, after which two of Davis’ bow ties were auctioned off to the crowd to raise funds for the Center for Story. The energized crowd went back and forth over the ties until they were finally auctioned off for $750 each.

Acerson said the Center for Story focuses on storytelling because of the power of stories to teach principles and build bonds between individuals.

“If you think about it, when you’re in class, in school or in church, what do you love most about the person teaching? It’s when they tell a story,” Acerson said. “If I want to get my kids’ attention, I say, ‘Let me tell you a story,’ and I have their attention. Really, if people knew each other’s stories, there wouldn’t be as much trouble in the world, there would be a lot more empathy and understanding. They would find things they have in common.”

Alan Ashton, founder of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, reflected on the growth in popularity of storytelling in Utah. He said the first storytelling festival happened 22 years ago in a backyard with one storytelling tent that ended up getting blown over by the wind. The annual storytelling festival has grown into an event attended by as many as 30,000 people in years past.

“Stories preserve our heritage,” Ashton said. “They allow generations to link together. They facilitate individuals being able to express themselves and share in a way that bring family members and friends together.”

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