Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the 2020 Storytellers’ Institute will happen virtually this June.
Courtney Surmanek (they/them) is a cultural organizer, theatre-maker and multidisciplinary artist. Courtney collaboratively creates initiatives rooted in storytelling, cultural exchange, and social change that are often intergenerational. This includes the co-development of organizations, programs, collectives, and theater pieces that explore these three essential questions: Who are we as people? What do we stand for? How do we want to be remembered? Courtney is an M.F.A./M.S. Candidate in Theatre: Directing & Public Dialogue and Urban & Regional Planning at Virginia Tech. In Courtney’s current work, they develop strategic planning workshops that incorporate participatory theatre methods to broaden engagement and heighten collaboration amongst stakeholders working together to establish creative strategies to address their community’s foremost challenges. In 2019, Courtney was a SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Artist-in-Residence with ProjectArt, Fellow at The Performance Project at University Settlement, Fellow at the Hemispheric Institute for Performance & Politics and Teaching Artist with Ping Chong + Company. Courtney is a Broadway Advocacy Coalition Member and recent Co-Organizer of The Theater of Change Forum at Columbia Law School.
Gioncarlo (b. 1990) is an award-winning American photographer and writer. Valentine hails from Baltimore City and attended Towson University, in Maryland. Backed by his seven years in the social work field, his work focuses on issues faced by marginalized populations, most often focusing his lens on the experiences of Black/LGBTQIA+ communities. Gioncarlo’s work is deeply collaborative and seeks to examine notions of community and belonging. Gioncarlo is a member of the 2018 class of Skowhegan’s School of Painting and Sculpture. In 2019 he opened his debut solo show, The Soft Fence, at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, OR, which culminated in a successful catalog, published by Blue Sky Books. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times and has had his work published in Propublica, The New Yorker, Vogue, and Esquire among others.
Daesha Devón Harris
Daesha Devón Harris, Saratoga Springs native and documentary photographer and award-winning artist, creates powerful multimedia pieces that speak to social issues in a creative and compelling way. Her photos depict subjects not as victims, instead showing them in a light of determination that illuminates Daesha’s relentless optimism. Harris’ practice includes individual and collective portraits of African-American and other often-unrecognized communities in Saratoga Springs, and the use of archival and historical research and images. Her MFA show, and yet must be…my Promise Land, and 2011 show at the National Museum of Dance, I’ve Got a Home: Inside a Community of Color, draw attention to African-American youths affected by gentrification. In 2018 alone Ms. Devon Haris has had solo exhibitions at the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland Oregon and the Albany International Airport gallery and has been included in many prestigious group shows including Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region at the University Art Museum in Albany and Altar: Prayer, Ritual, Offerings, MFON: Women Photographers of The African Diaspora at Photoville in Brooklyn. She was recently nominated as one of the 100 photography heroines by The Royal Photographic Society and she was recently awarded the an individual Photographer’s Fellowship from the Aaron Siskand foundation.
Raul Ayala & Fernanda Espinosa working as a collaborative pair:
Raul is a visual artist and educator focused on mural production, drawing, and painting. His work has been shown in different contexts and countries. He also participates in ongoing collaborations with art collectives in New York City and Quito. Raul is the co-founder of Cooperativa Cultural 19 de enero (CC1/19), an ongoing visual arts and oral transmissions collaboration and is currently a recipient of a full merit scholarship in the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, where he is a Master of Fine Art candidate and a part-time lecturer.
Fernanda is an oral history-based practitioner and cultural organizer based in New York. She approaches storytelling as one of the many ways of transmitting knowledge and her analysis and practice are deeply embedded in interrogating colonial standards, including story forms. She has been generating, listening to, and interpreting oral histories to inform creative public interventions that aspire to act as platforms for resistance and dialogue. Fernanda holds a degree in Oral History from Columbia University, where her thesis was awarded the 2018 Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Award. She is the co-founder and coordinator of Cooperativa Cultural 19 de enero (CC 1/19), an ongoing oral transmissions and visual arts collaboration. In addition to her own practice, she currently works full-time leading partnerships and access for underrepresented voices at StoryCorps.
Shalon Buskirk & Drew Swedberg working as a collaborative pair:
Shalon is known as a community leader who has dedicated her life to protecting, helping, and saving young adults from violence within our community. She was born and raised in Allentown, PA. After the tragic death of her first-born son Parris, she decided to start to work towards a nonprofit for young adults that engages them with the resources they need for success. She was the driving force behind the first major funding in the city for youth violence prevention. She wanted to tell her son Parris’ story as a storyteller, a mother of eight children, and currently the CEO/Founder of the Parris J. Lane Memorial Foundation.
Drew is a community-based documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and educator in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His work navigates complex systems with an intimate visual poetic. As an artist-in-residence and teaching artist, he has produced over 50 youth films through his workshops in Allentown and the Lehigh Valley. He is the founder of the digital storytelling initiative, Collaborative Media Expressions, which is focused on engaging, supporting, and cultivating youth voices through digital storytelling. He currently teaches in the Film and Media Studies Department at Lafayette College and coaches basketball at Jefferson Elementary School. in love, in memory is his feature directorial debut.
Visiting Student Fellow
Haley is a recent Muhlenberg College Media & Communications and Film Studies graduate. She is drawn to documentary storytelling because it sits at the intersection of art and activism. Documentaries give their makers the unique ability to tell stories that uncover the rich textures of humanity and inspire change. As an undergraduate, Hnatuk worked as an editor of “Dos Hermanxs: The Blood of the California Fields,” a short documentary in which Luis Magaña, an immigrant rights organizer, recounts two tragic losses of indigenous youth from México working in Central Valley vineyards. This film has been screened at festivals nationaly. Aditionally, while studying abroad at Dublin City University, she worked as a Media Production Assisant at Motherland, an award winning Irish production company that produces commercials, films and documentaries.