‘Lively Evening of Music and True Stories’ takes center stage in community arts finale on June 11

Photos taken around Perry by Perry High School student Jaylene Karolus hang in the window of Betsy Peterson Designs. The photo installation, part of the We the Many project, will be on display for several weeks.

After more than a year of global disruptions, loss and uncertainty due to the pandemic, a local team of arts leaders, artists and community members have something to celebrate and are inviting the community of Perry to join them.  

“We the Many of Perry: A Lively Evening of Music and True Stories” is a culminating event of words and music presented by Art on the Prairie and performed at the Tin Pig Tavern in Perry at 7:30 p.m. June 11. Food will be available for purchase starting at 6 p.m. from food trucks on Warford Street and doors to Tin Pig Tavern will open at 6:45 p.m.  

“It’s a unique opportunity for Perry to experience an evening of music and stories from seasoned and novice presenters,” said Artistic Director Akwi Nji. “It’s the kind of storytelling and music event you’d find in any number of cities across the country, but creating this event after the year we’ve all been through feels different. It’s a chance to reconnect, relax, enjoy the company of community members safely again, and support seasoned artists like our special guest musician Chad Elliott and featured storyteller Erik Dominguez as well as people who will be telling personal stories on stage for the first time.”  

The evening of stories and music is a celebratory capstone to the speaking workshops and courses Dominguez taught as the artist in residence for the year-long We the Many arts initiative and, in addition to Dominguez as the featured storyteller, includes participants from his workshops.

“I’m incredibly proud of the speakers and storytellers who have chosen to invest in their personal and professional growth through the Speak Up Stories workshops that we offered through We the Many in Perry this year,” said Dominguez. “And I’m so excited to hear their stories come to life in front of a live audience. It’ll be a wonderful evening of entertainment that’s peppered with poignancy and humor.”  

Art on the Prairie will present We the Many of Perry: A Lively Evening of Music and True Stories at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 11 at Tin Pig Tavern.

In addition to stories told by Dominguez and various Perry community members, the event spotlights acclaimed musician Chad Elliott who’s known for blending folk roots, swampy blues and soulful writing to deliver an original Americana sound and whose new album, “Singing River,” was released earlier this month.

“I cannot think of a better way to celebrate a community than to hear its stories,” Elliott said. “I love the town of Perry and I am so excited to take part in this shared experience of story and song.”  

The free event will be livestreamed via the Art on the Prairie Facebook page.

“We encourage attendees to arrive early as we anticipate a strong turnout,” said Lynsi Pasutti, one of the five committee members at the helm of the We the Many of Perry project. “But for those who can’t attend in person, the livestream from the Art on the Prairie Facebook page is a great way to access this event.”  

We the Many of Perry: A Lively Evening of Music and True Stories is one of several art projects under We the Many that celebrates the people and places of Perry and which wraps up a year-long process with the artist residency as its nucleus.  

Other ways the people and places of Perry are being celebrated through visual art, music, stories and history:  

Photos taken around Perry by Perry High School student Sebastian Hernandez hang in the window of the Perry Chamber of Commerce office. The photo installation, part of the We the Many project, will be on display for several weeks.

Ames-based visual artist Jennifer Drinkwater has spent months working with two Perry High School students whose photographs of “what’s good” in Perry — as experienced through their lens — will be displayed, on Main Street, at Betsy Peterson Gallery, 1121 Second St., and the Chamber of Commerce, 1124 Willis Ave. The photo installations will be on display for several weeks starting June 9 and will also be on view on the We the Many of Perry website which will go live in mid-June.  

The students of music teacher Jenn Nelson created a project which allowed them to reflect on their pandemic experience in word and music form, with each student creating a Your Pandemic Story outline and pairing their experience with a song that they felt summarized their pandemic story. The centerpiece of the student creation was a choral piece titled “The Awakening” by Joseph M. Martin; the student-generated showcase was performed and recorded as a culminating project at the end of the school year. The recording of the performance will be made available on the We the Many of Perry website in June.  

Videos and digital content created in collaboration with Hometown Heritage and Art on the Prairie, contemporizing select interviews and stories from Hometown Heritage’s vast library of more than 600 stories will also appear on the We the Many website.  

All activities under We the Many were made possible by a competitive grant awarded to Art on the Prairie in 2019 from Arts Midwest with generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and in partnership with the Indiana Arts Commission, Iowa Arts Council and South Dakota Arts Council.  

“Our original projects and plans were dramatically disrupted by the pandemic,” Pasutti said. “But we’ve been working hard to tell the stories of the people and places of Perry in unique and compelling ways that transcend the pandemic. We’re all so thankful to finally see everything come together to spotlight our pride in Perry.”