Recently, I had a terrific visit to the Heritage Centre to conduct a creative storytelling activity called TimeSlips. This is our third Timeslips activity but what made this visit unique was the pairing the elders with a group of homeschool students.

Presented with a photograph, all participants were asked open-ended questions about the image like “What do you think is going on here?” “Who are these people?” “Where are they?” All their responses are written down and as the process evolves a simple story emerges and often times also a lively discussion of personal histories.

We used photographs from the book Sundogs and Sunflowers:Folklore and Folk Art of the Northern Great Plains, in particular, one depicting cowboys roping a calf. To get the “story-creating” group in the mood, we listened to nostalgic cowboy music and passed around hanks of horse hair and leather for everyone to smell and feel. Engaging all the senses opens up memories to past experiences–a goal of the TimeSlips activity.

The children were enthusiastic providing lots of input which kept our note taker recording furiously! Everyone was so active I wasn’t even able to pose questions as everyone was contributing so freely. They created this story:

Granted the story is not a piece of great literature but it’s value is measured in the creative engagement all those involved–everyone contributing to the whole. The process reveals tidbits of information that allows participants to find common ground, opening avenues for dialogue and conversation. This is particularly important for the elders who often experience isolation and depression in institutional settings.

The TimeSlips activities are part of the Arts Center’s Art for Life program funded through the North Dakota Council on the Arts.

The Culture Builds Community blog is submitted (almost) weekly by The Arts Center Gallery Manager Sally Jeppson. Jeppson is also the Arts Center’s Art for Life Coordinator. She would love to hear your comments here or email

Source: Jamestown Arts Area Voices