The Columbia Museum of Art recently opened their summer exhibition ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an exploration of utilitarian objects as art. The gallery opened on June 2 and will be on display through August 27. Throughout the summer, the CMA will host a variety of different programs and activities centered around the ReTooled exhibit, including a lecture from the curator, woodworking courses, Arts & Draughts, and Soda City Story Slam.
For those unfamiliar with the event, the first annual Soda City Story Slam occurred last June. Inspired by The Moth podcast, the slam provides an opportunity for 10 local community members to share a brief, unscripted autobiographical story. According to host Shannon Ivey, event participants include poets, seasoned storytellers, as well as first time performers.
“You’ll find that some of the less experienced storytellers can often be the most authentic. I’m not slamming any professionals; I just really adore the process of someone who is really called to talk about the topic. There is something really magical about that,” Ivey says.
In addition to the wide range of content featured, Ivey also emphasizes the diversity of both storytellers and event attendees. By calling the event a story slam as opposed to a poetry slam, theatre performance, activism event, or competition, Ivey hopes to be more inclusive for those interested in participating or attending.
The slam also provides a unique experience for individuals to dedicate time to listening to the experiences and thoughts of others.
“There are very few times that you sit and listen to someone for 5-10 minutes without interrupting them — not even in our business life,” Ivey says. “The opportunity to grow in empathy and understanding of our neighbors is really huge. In our political climate, people are pretty angry on all sides. This takes politics out of it and brings humans into it. It’s a lovely bipartisan way to connect with each other. I’m hoping that this sort of model can catch on and even be used in a bigger sense for more community building.”
The Story Slam has even inspired different spin off projects. Alison Salisbury, who will perform at the upcoming story slam, organized the Screendoor Storytelling group. This organization meets monthly at the Richland County Public Library and allows community members to share stories and compete. In addition, there are tentative plans at the CMA to host a female-centered story slam, a spinoff of Ivey’s projects titled “What She Said.”
“It is just really lovely to see how it can evolve,” Ivey says.
This year, there is one noticeable difference from the previous Soda City Story Slam. Last year, the event included a panel of judges that decided the winner of the event. However, Ivey said the winner will now be determined by audience reaction and participation.