Storytelling and the Arts Useful in Community Development

During the Spring 2017 semester, a group of seven URP students and one graduate student in Art Education completed a community development project with the citizens of Delmar, Iowa. The purpose of the project was to employ the humanities and the arts to engage Delmar residents in the telling of Delmar’s story as well as to plant the seeds for further community development. Delmar is a small town (population 496) located in eastern Iowa approximately 30 miles from the Illinois border.

The project engaged 4th-6th graders at Delwood Elementary School in Delmar to interview older members of the community “to discover common values that serve as a foundation for a community-wide vision and a tool for decision-making.” Additional outcomes for the Delwood school students included learning more about the town’s history and the development of pride in their hometown. The Delwood students then incorporated this knowledge in “accordion books” they made with the assistance of URP students and the UI Center for the Book. The project was planned in cooperation with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, the Center for the Book, Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL), the UI Art Education program, the Delwood Community School District, and the Delmar Development Group.

A video about the storytelling project was developed and may be viewed here

Photo by Tim Schoon.