Share YOUR story. Shape OUR city. 

In 2022, C21 hosted a series of retreats that incorporated faculty, student, and community stakeholders in a conversation about the pressing issues of the time. The retreats focused on the place of the university in Milwaukee, the restructuring of the traditional academic conference, and the inclusion of multiple expert voices into conversations about topics both studied and lived. Mobility – honoring experience and expertise outside the space of the lecture hall or Zoom room, and meeting people where they are – anchored much of the discussion.   

Responding to these retreats, C21 will pilot the Mobile Story Cart in June 2023. Designed and crafted by sculpture artist Glenn Williams, the Story Cart is at once a work of art and a vehicle for conversation, meant to encourage participants to gather together and share their stories based on a series of prompts. The stories are documented as audio, text, or drawings and shared in an open-access digital story bank to be used by artists, researchers, and community partners.  

This year’s prompt will expand on the Nourishing Trust program and ask participants where they most commonly gather food, and (in as much detail as possible) how they get there. Participants will also be encouraged to tell stories about existing and dream garden plots, the foods that matter most to them, and what the trust might taste like if we built a city recipe to foster it. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is a “Mobile Story Cart”? 

C21’s Mobile Story Cart is designed as a site for exchange, collaboration, and learning through story. Each year the Story Cart will focus on a theme that is part of C21’s extensive programming (podcasts, roundtable discussions, online resources). The C21 team designs a survey that invites stories in response to that theme. C21 hires and trains students to accompany the Story Cart to a range of locations across Milwaukee. Stories might be shared through drawings, video, or audio recordings. 

What happens to the stories? 

People who share their stories can choose to use their names or not. With their permission, their stories/responses will be archived and made available for public education/use. 

What kinds of questions are asked? 

C21 focuses on “Story and Sensory” surveys that invite participants to reflect on the feelings, sounds, smells, and colors evoked with a given topic. The answers to these questions are often hard-to-reach data, and they are meant to inspire creative solutions in the face of hard topics like loneliness, hunger, and political polarization. 

In the spring/summer of 2023, the Story Cart will focus on issues of food and land justice – particularly inviting people to share their “Food Journeys,” how they get to a place they can gather food, and to where they can prepare and consume it. 

 What does a day with the “Mobile Story Cart” look like? 

C21 trains and supports two people to travel with the cart to your location and set it up on-site. The cart comes with stools, laptop whiteboards and audio equipment, and information on additional resources about the topic. The Story Cart will be at a given site for 3-4 hours, inviting passers-by to participate. It is designed to be in both in- and outdoor locations. 

What is expected of the site partners? 

Site partners identify a “point person” to arrange the best location for the Story Cart and welcome the Story facilitators. Ideally, the representative also helps the facilitators find participants most important to the organization (and in some cases, help with translation work, if needed.) We aim to provide a thank-you gift in the form of a small honorarium to representatives (pending funding). 

If you’re interested in hosting the Mobile StoryCart at your organization or event, please fill out the form here.