Stories to help see

2015 to date has been a whirlwind and I’ve been missing here on the site – but you’ll be seeing more of me.

One incredible project that I’ve worked on was for my friends at Airigami, in support of their project Balloon Manor.  Let me set the stage – 73 crew members from around the world, 4 days and nights, and 45,000 balloons coming together into a 38 foot x 32 foot, 5-story tall installation. IMG_20150228_130514_322

Larry & Kelly of Airigami take pride in making their work accessible.  Balloon Manor was free to view.  It is built in a location that supports the revitalization of Rochester’s downtown and also makes it easy for bus-riders and downtown residents to participate.  They wanted to bring the experience to everyone – including those whose eyes could not see the vibrant seascape they had created. They brought me in to tell the story of the piece.

I sat at the periphery of the build – observing as the weaves and twists emerged into ships and creatures, treasure and sea-life.  Occasionally, I would walk around with my recorder, gathering the sounds of the experience.  Once complete, I took a long slow tour of all 5 floors, noting all the details that I could – shapes, colors, and textures.

Early on, I realized that the story had to be told in two parts.  First, a narrative.  There is clearly a story unfolding before our eyes in this sculpture and that overarching tale needed to be told before the details and intricacies were explored.  The forest before the trees.

And so the tale of The Pioneer, an ill-fated pirate ship, unfolded. I then told the story of the details of the piece, starting with how pieces emerged during the build and rolling into a tour from the 5th floor down to the ground level.   I wrote this all out as a script and then recorded my narration.  Then I layered in audio snippets from my walks around during the build and after the opening day.

I gave everything the flavor of a tale told by the fire while still trying to capture the scale and scope of the work – its huge size and striking intricacies.  I read the tour to a small group that included at least one blind person and she really appreciated it, while the kids enjoyed the story.  The tour was available at Balloon Manor for a week while it was open, and I hope it helped more people, as well.  You can still download it here if you want to check it out.

I know that audio tours are not new.  I tend to avoid them because I like to explore on my own, but I may check some out now as a point of comparison.  From what I’ve glimpsed, most are more replacements for tour guides – historical facts and perhaps stories and maybe some “if you look closely, you will see …”, but not a replacement for sight.

By weaving the tale of Balloon Manor, I hope to have brought some of the joy and wonder of the art to those who could not see it.  I look forward to more such opportunities – telling stories to help make the wonders in life more accessible to everyone. IMG_20150301_111150_565

How do you think stories might help the people around you to experience new things?  What tales can you tell to bring something to life for someone who may not be able to appreciate it fully?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Stories to help see

  1. I’m at home in the Netherlands and listening to your story.
    It made me feel proud of having been part of this project and your narration was very accurate and made me re encounter the complete scene. I have downloaded it to my computer and it will be part of my memory of Balloonmanor.
    Thank you April,
    Millieballon.

  2. Love the idea of a story that combines what it took to build this thing, with a real fantasy story that goes with it. Maybe you could share a short written extract here too?

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