State of Art: Making connections with Anchorage’s Festival of Cultural Stories. An interview with Shirley Mae Springer-Staten

Shirley Mae Springer-Staten has spent a good portion of her life trying to make the world a better place. Whether it’s community organizing or cultural exchange through the arts, Springer-Staten has worked to remove divisions between people. She thinks this drive was born from growing up in the segregated South where railroad tracks literally divided the town by race.

Springer-Staten remembers her aunt, an amazing storyteller, recounting the lynching of a young African American boy and the impact that and other stories had on her. While physical barriers to racial harmony are somewhat less blatant these days, it’s the mental barriers between cultures Springer-Staten hopes to break with the Festival of Cultural Stories.

Springer-Staten is the executive director of Keys to Life Alaska, the non-profit hosting the event. The festival will feature workshops and renowned international storytellers. Springer-Staten stopped by the Alaska Public Media studios to talk about Keys to Life, healing through the arts and the power of storytelling.

The Festival of Cultural Stories is January 25th and is free to the public with prior registration.

Ammon Swenson is Alaska Public Media’s Audio Media Content Producer. He was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He graduated from UAA in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and integrated media. He’s previously worked for KRUA radio, the Anchorage Press, and The Northern Light.

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