Creating Connections Across Generations

Unboxed Digital Storytelling Workshop 2022

Unboxed Flyer with a rainbow exploding out of a box representing the shared stories of LGBTQ individuals

LinkAGES and The Denver Public Library are partnering with StoryCenter to create and facilitate a storytelling program that will connect you with 8-12 (4-6 from each generation) LGBTQ+ elders with LGBTQ+ teens. Through three, full-day facilitated sessions, you will use creative engagement, participatory art-making, and collective editing to discover and shape transformative stories from your lives and share them with your fellow participants. This process will build empathy and connection among the different aged members of the group.

StoryCenter facilitators will guide you through a collaborative creative process using images, music, and voice narration to make your stories into short videos.

DATES OF WORKSHOP:
Pre-Session (Virtual, on Zoom) – November 12th, 2022, 11am-12pm MST

In-Person Sessions:
Session 1 – Sunday, November 20th 2022, 10am-6pm MST
Session 2 – Monday, November 21st 2022, 10am-6pm MST
Session 3 – Tuesday, November 22nd 2022, 10am-6pm MST

Free and in-person. You must be able to attend all meetings.
You will also receive a stipend of $250 for your participation.

You do not need tech skills or previous arts experience to participate.

Technology: This workshop requires that you bring a laptop.

If you do not have access to certain devices, we may be able to provide this for you!

To get a feel for what Unboxed looks and feels like, check out our article about the Unboxed Pilot Program from 2021.

 

Your facilitators will be:

Jonny Chang photoJonny Chang: A recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Jonny is a creative writer, performer, budding musical producer, filmmaker, sound designer, artist, and change-maker. He is an advocate for diversity in the arts, and is passionate about ensuring more people of color, people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, women, and other marginalized groups are given platforms for their voices on- and off-screen. He hopes to one day become a full-time artist, while lending his expertise to the next generation. He reps the 510 to the fullest and enjoys watching the sunset. BA, Communication Arts and English Creative Writing, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Holly McClelland photoHolly McClelland: Holly is a graphic designer, filmmaker, editor, and expert rock skipper living in Denver. Since joining StoryCenter as a facilitator in 2012, she survived cancer– all the while keeping her sense of humor. Holly played a big role in a storytelling project with the Positive Women’s Network in Colorado, holding space for women living with HIV. She is passionate about ensuring more people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum are supported with story work and making sure their voices are listened to. She is a Denver native and enjoys spending time in the woods on skis, listening to the sounds of the forest. She has her BFA in Graphic Design and Painting from Colorado State University.

This program is a joint project of the Denver Public Library, StoryCenter, and LinkAGES. It is generously funded by Centura Health and Equity Advancement Fund.

Centura Health Awards $75,000 Grant for LGBTQ+ Intergenerational Storytelling Program

Digital art of a face and identity

LinkAGES is thrilled to share with you that we recently received a $75,000 grant from Centura Health! The Centura Health Equity and Advancement Fund aimed to extend the impact of community-based organizations focused on advancing social justice and health equity across Colorado and Western Kansas. The fund supports Centura Health’s vision of every community, every neighborhood, every life – whole and healthy.

We partnered with Denver Public Library and StoryCenter to collaborate on the grant application. Together, we decided that the Unboxed program was the perfect fit for Centura Health’s vision. The Unboxed pilot storytelling program ran last year, bringing together LGBTQ+ teens and older adults. The program experiments with participatory art making, various mediums, and collective editing while building empathy and connection. 

Unboxed is already on our event calendar! The in-person session is scheduled for November 20, 21, and 22. The three-day, fullday sessions are fully-facilitated and will occur at Lighthouse in Denver. To fill out an application, click through to the event page. 

You can also check out our article about the Unboxed pilot program.

The Realities of LGBTQ+ Teens and Older Adults

School dropout rates for LGBTQ+ youth are nearly 3X the national average. While we’ve written about the youth mental health crisis before, LGBTQ+ teens disproportionately experience loneliness and its mental health reprecussions. These teens, our friends and neighbors, experience stigma, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination and are at greater risk for suicidality. They’re also more than twice as likely to report
persistent sadness, (CDC).

Transgender youth are twice as likely- to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to cisgender and LGBTQ+ youth,
(Journal of Adolescent Health). Risk factors include bullying, trauma, substance use, homelessness, rejection, and more.

LGBTQ+ older adults also experience social isolation at greater levels than their peers, according to research. They face barriers to receiving formal health care and social support that heterosexual, cisgender adults do not due to fears of discrimination, financial instability, and social isolation. These adults are more likely to be single or living alone, and less likely to
have children to care for them. They have higher risks of mental health issues, disabilities, and higher rates of disease and physical limitation. Transgender older adults face additional
experiences of victimization and stigma, (The Williams Intititute).

Unboxed: An intergenerational LGBTQ+ program exploring identity through art & stories

Exploring our own personal identities and histories is a complex and vulnerable experience. Denver Public Library and StoryCenter created a safe space for six older adults and six teenagers, all part of the LGBTQ+ community, to come together and do just that in Fall 2021.

During an intergenerational program, participants dove into writing prompts, wellness exercises, and art activities while forming bonds and friendships with one another. They explored their own personal stories while listening to those of other participants. At the end, they each completed a 2-4 minute digital film about their personal identities. Many participants are still in touch. 

Denver Public Library and StoryCenter produced a Zine to share some participant stories. “D’s Story” is below and you can view the whole Zine here in PDF format. Keep scrolling to read a powerful testimony from one of the participants.

LinkAGES is proud to have funded and supported Unboxed.

Unboxed Participant Testimony

Dear Amy,

I just wanted to write to thank you for the program Unboxed: An Intergenerational Digital Storytelling Project for LGBTQ+ Teens and Older Adults. It was an extraordinary experience that I will never forget, especially now that I have a digital story I can share with my family and friends. 

This program was special because we met six times and I was able to develop friendships that have lasted beyond the program. In addition to sharing our stories, we shared how we were doing and did wellness activities such as breathing, meditating, and journaling or drawing. One of the older adults, for example, fell down her stairs and seriously injured her back, yet she kept coming to the sessions. She said she really appreciated our support during a tough time. Another older adult had some difficulty with the technology, so we met together several times in person to work on our stories together. Now that the workshop is over, we check in with each other every week or so by phone or email and meet every now and then to catch up.   

The extended program also helped me get to know the teen participants. I learned a lot from the young people. I realized that while they have access to the Internet and many more resources than I had as a queer teen, they still face prejudice and discrimination. They are coming out at a younger age and thus have to face homophobia and transphobia as early as grade school. I came to admire their courage and integrity. I wish there were more opportunities for LGBTQ+ older adults and teens to interact like we did in Unboxed. At one point, one of the teens said they appreciated seeing older adults who survived and thrived–it gave them hope for their own futures. I replied that it meant everything to us older adults to see resilient, thoughtful, compassionate young people who will lead us into the future. 

I can’t say enough about the Denver Public Library staff and Story Center facilitators who guided us through the workshop. Jonny, Ngozi, Casey, and Holly made me feel safe to talk about past trauma and take the risk of being vulnerable in my creative work. We developed a creative community, discussing how to represent our struggles and joys as queer people. Jonny and Ngozi taught us how to use the technology and sharpen our storytelling techniques. Holly took us through several art projects that opened up my thinking and improved my project. Casey was an ever-present source of compassion and encouragement. When we shared our digital stories at the end of the program, I felt as much pride for others as I did for myself. I was moved to tears several times, remembering how intimidating it was for some of us to first share our stories. My triumph wasn’t so much about “I did it!” as it was about “we did it!”

I have been struggling with anxiety/depression during the pandemic and having this weekly meeting, along with the creative project to work on, gave me a sense of community and purpose. One of the older adults said it well–“this is helping my self-esteem!” I’m sure this Unboxed program took a great deal of planning and resources. I am grateful. Very grateful.

Thank you for all you are doing for older adults at Denver Public Library and for bringing us this amazing program.