Roaring Fork Valley environmental orgs attempt to reach beyond usual audiences with storytelling event

Carla Jean Whitley
Glenwood Springs Post Independent


Fire in the Belly: Stories of Change

Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. Join Community Office for Resource Efficiency, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the city of Aspen and Writ Large for an evening of stories about change. Drinks and mingling begin at 5:30, solar seed house tours at 6 and stories at 6:30 p.m. It’s a car-free event, so attendees have several options: A free shuttle will run from El Jebel Park & Ride every 15 minutes from 5-6:15 p.m., or people may walk or bike. There will be no on-site parking.

Rock Bottom Ranch, 2001 Hooks Spur Road , Basalt | $15 |

When they speak about environmental conservation in western Colorado, many times organizations find themselves preaching to the choir. People are drawn to the mountains for their natural beauty, after all.

That creates a challenge for these groups: How can they break through to a broader audience?

This week, four entities will work to use storytelling to do just that. Community Office for Resource Efficiency, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the city of Aspen and Writ Large will host Fire in the Belly, a live story event, at Rock Bottom Ranch Wednesday.

“We have a whole quiver of tools that we use to engage the community. Art is just one of them,” said Lara Whitley, CORE’s community engagement and marketing manager. “The reason that we are taking this approach is because we recognize that art and creativity — and I count storytelling in that — have a special way of sort of getting to people’s hearts and beyond their minds, if you will.”

Some folks are compelled by scientific data, but others need to hear personal stories to understand why a change could be beneficial, Whitley explained.

“These methods really open people up to deeper conversation and help them understand the direct connections between what they’re doing and the impact it can create,” she said.

The theme is a continuation of CORE’s 2017 event, which combined art, environment and community with a snow drawing gathering at Ashcroft.

The event materials describe the theme this way: “Turning a corner, rallying together, playing a part, creating something new. Finding solutions in the face of shifting sands: an uncertain future, a changing environment, weird weather. Whatever keeps you rolling up your sleeves and moving forward with hope.”

Each of the evening’s six stories, told by locals ages 13 to 72, will capitalize on those ideas. Event attendees will gather beneath Rock Bottom Ranch’s pole barn, a location chosen because it highlights the environmental connection. The evening will also include solar seed house tours, a story engagement station, cocktails and Slow Groovin’ BBQ. The stories are not all explicitly about the environment, but they all relate to the theme of change and individual power to take action.

“Story has the power to connect us to one another, and also to connect the dots between the actions we’re taking and the impact we’re having,” Whitley said. “That’s why we’re using stories this time around.”

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