Relay of Voices, a four-month long expedition from the headwaters to the mouth of the Mississippi River, will make its way through Brainerd in July.
Relay of Voices is a work of social practice dance that utilizes principles of durational performance, movement research, social choreography, endurance art, placemaking and environmental activism, according to a news release. By staging a four-month long expedition from the headwaters to the mouth of the Mississippi River, relay organizers will gather landscapes and voices through various forms of movement and listening, grounding the stories of Middle America.
The expedition, spearheaded by Victoria Bradford Styrbicki with the assistance of a relay team made up of support staff and regional volunteers, embarks on a mission to collect individual stories across the Mississippi River region. The expedition acts as a mobile studio space traversing the landscape, giving everyone involved the opportunity to engage in the artistic process and feel the urgency of being connected in space and time, organizers stated. The entire endeavor will take place from July through November.
In Brainerd, the expedition will "relay the voices” and landscapes from Crosby to connect them to the stories of Brainerd during a community picnic and potluck 5:30-7:30 p.m. July 22 in the pavilion at Lum Park in Brainerd. The public is invited to witness and participate in this storytelling process. Residents are encouraged to partake in the community potluck and bring a dish to share in a community-wide dinner. Local musicians will also perform at the event. Relay of Voices has been working with 104 communities, 20-40 miles apart, as daily stops on the expedition as it travels downriver through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, finishing at the mouth of the river at the Gulf of Mexico.
“We want to create a platform for listening with the body in and around the communities of the Mississippi River as we build a physical vocabulary drawn from the lives of the people of Brainerd,” stated Bradford Styrbicki, executive and artistic director, in a news release. "Through this, we hope a story emerges that resonates beyond the river and connects all Americans. Through accumulation and just being present, we hope to be a catalyst for all the voices of Brainerd while also providing insightful data for scientific purposes.”
Each stop along the way has been identified and vetted into an organized route to provide an accurate representation of both the river and the diversity of the surrounding communities. A primary reason for choosing the Mississippi River region was the dichotomy of rural and urban communities there, with many of them still making a living off the water and land. The river is home to a collection of small towns ranging between 200 and 60,000 in population anchored by seven cities with a population of more than 100,000, serving as beacons of culture and urbanity along the water way, the news release stated.
The relay will then travel July 23 to Little Falls composed of surrogate walkers, runners, cyclists and paddlers from neighboring river communities. The release stated when no regional surrogates step in to carry the voices downriver, Styrbicki will approach the distance as a duathlon -- a run out of town, cycling the longer stretch between, followed by a run into the next town. Styrbicki and the relay team will “gather the landscape,” making observations with their senses as well as with GPS body cameras mounted to their torsos or bikes for use in mapping analysis and storytelling. Brainerd has planned a walking, running, cycling and paddling escort out of Brainerd to share in the effort. Participants will meet at the parking lot at 9 a.m. by the Mississippi River, across from the Brainerd High School baseball fields. Participants are encouraged to be aware of their physical limits and plan their own transportation home, if needed. Learn more at www.brainerdriverfront.org and www.relayofvoices.com.
Relay has partnered with 29 convention and visitors bureaus, 19 chambers of commerce, 30 arts/culture and educational organizations, 45 city and county governments, as well as hundreds of individual volunteers local to each community to solidify programming and to assist with accommodations, transportation, event space and nourishment to support the expedition as it travels south. Other partners include the Great River Road, Mississippi River Network, Water Institute of the Gulf, and Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Relay team members include Styrbicki, project collaborator Tom Styrbicki, certified triathlon coach Nic King-Ruley and project manager Dinah Bradford.