Children’s Museum Tucson debuts storytelling program

click to enlarge Children’s Museum Tucson debuts storytelling program
(Children’s Museum Tucson/Submitted)
Children play with drums in the courtyard of the Children’s Museum Tucson during Art After Dark on Second Saturday, Sept. 10. Local nonprofit and Japanese ensemble drumming group Odaiko Sonora provided play-based activities for children and their families.

The Children’s Museum Tucson will debut its new storytelling program, Cuentacuentos, on Saturday, Oct. 8, as part of its Art After Dark program, a monthly collaboration between local art partners and nonprofit organizations.

Hilary Van Alsburg, executive director at the CMT, said the museum received a project grant from Arizona Humanities in August to bring in multicultural storytellers as an ancillary initiative to support the Art After Dark’s arts programming. 

Arizona Humanities is a statewide nonprofit organization that supports public programs to “promote understanding of the human experience with cultural, educational and nonprofit programs across Arizona.” 

“There’s such a rich, vibrant storytelling community in Tucson,” Van Alsburg said. “Being able to bring in individuals who are skilled at this and highlighting different cultures for the audiences we serve is such a great benefit.”

Cuentacuentos is a partnership between the CMT and the University of Arizona’s College of Humanities and Africana Studies Department. Dr. Praise Zenenga, director of Africana Studies will be the first featured storyteller sharing oral histories from Africa including a West African Folktale about “Anansi the Spider.”

“There will be a lot of participation in terms of call and response and asking questions back and forth, wanting [the kids] to predict the outcomes,” Zenenga said. 

The stories will have morals and span a variety of delivery methods, including digital and performance storytelling. The department invites professors, and graduate and undergraduate students to participate in the program. 

Zenenga, who is tasked with finding other storytellers throughout the university said that narrators will be sourced from programs such as the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures (SILLC), area studies programs such as East Asian, Russian and Slavic German, Judaic, Latin American and Middle Eastern. 

“We decided that these area studies within the university can bring us stories about diversity, inclusion and equity from different parts of the world so that these kids will get to know that a difference is something that has to be celebrated and not disdained,” Zenenga said. 

With a theme of acceptance, Cuentacuentos reaches out to children in marginalized communities to prepare future leaders to think critically, make decisions, fairness and acceptance, Zenenga said.

The Cuentacuentos program is set to run through spring. CMT’s free Art After Dark program runs year-round, every second Saturday of the month with the goal of increasing accessibility to the arts for historically underserved and marginalized communities.   

Cuentacuentos at Art After Dark, supported by AZ Humanities

WHEN: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. the Second Saturday of each month through the spring

WHERE: Children’s Museum Tucson, 200 S. Sixth Avenue, Tucson

COST: Free