Relay of Voices: The Great River Run

58 3Arts supporters
$5,171 raised of $5,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on March 02, 2018
    • 103% contributed

As a native of coastal Louisiana, I have seen the region and many of its people nearly devastated by natural and manmade disasters but also resilient and powerful in the collective efforts to rebuild and restore. When I left Louisiana for Chicago, I took the passion of that community with me and it is now a major source of inspiration behind my latest project: Relay of Voices: The Great River Run (RELAY). A multifaceted, serialized performance, RELAY is designed to connect people, communities, and the nation—a curative response to the increasing isolation and division within the United States. Over the course of the next two years, I will choreograph a group expedition on foot to gather and share stories from one hundred communities along the Mississippi River’s 2,300 miles. An ambitious project, the first leg in 2018 will be an extensive year-long phase of research conducted between our base in Chicago and sites along the river. We will then apply this research to the culmination of the RELAY project in 2019. Ultimately, RELAY relies on social choreography, whole-body listening, and the use of many bodies and collective movement as a means of storytelling that connects us beyond politics and rhetoric. With your involvement, we will raise the funds necessary to support this research phase which is critical to meet the complexities of this project that we feel will touch hundreds if not thousands in unique and profound ways.

About This Project

With my company of creative professionals, I am preparing for this project through a wide range of research activities, from mapping the running route along the Mississippi River, to designing specialized hands-on performance exercises, and planning a month-long trip along the river for advanced field research. Along with other major supporters, including the Chicago Dancemakers Forum, this 3AP campaign will play an instrumental role in raising the funds necessary to move this project forward.

During 2018, I need a budget of $5,000 every quarter, which will allow me to employ four movement researchers in monthly fieldwork and studio-based training. I will also use the funds to hire an art historian specializing in performance archives to devise an archive strategy and practice for the project. I will begin a programmatic effort at building momentum behind the project through social media, specifically Instagram. The RELAY team will travel to over five national races that occur along the route to conduct strategic outreach in the running community and get a sense of the landscape before taking it on fully in 2019. Our budget will provide for insurance, printing of promotional materials, technology, and supplies.

The success of RELAY’s culminating 100-day event is contingent on developing a thoroughly researched movement methodology as well as connecting with the 100 local communities in which the event will take place. Here in Chicago the RELAY team will continue a methodical practice of one-on-one shadowing field work and related documentation. The team will begin a three-phase testing period of our collective processing methods and resulting movement stories. Experimental public performances at the Chicago Artists Coalition (May), the MCA Chicago (August), and UIC’s Hull House (November) will invite the Chicago community to participate broadly.

RELAY team members will then be ready to embark on the 2019 expedition along the Mississippi River, spending time with individual residents as a shadow to their everyday lives. The team will document everyday gestures, actions, rhythms, routines, and rituals of their local partner. The team will then rehearse with this material, transforming what was witnessed into movement stories. The next morning the team will rise and invite the community to gather in a public space—a field, a park, a parking lot—where they will share the movement stories as an activity for all to engage. They will serve as both a narrative vehicle and a warm-up exercise for the walk or run that is to follow. Movement stories represent a new mode of storytelling: cultural narratives dependent on the dialogue between a person’s movements and words.

Following the movement stories warm-up, the RELAY team will invite the community to run with them as they collectively run the equivalent of one marathon. The team will conduct their running by relay, a nod to the physical strain of one hundred days of running a 2,300-mile route and an acknowledgment of the multiple voices coming together in this work. By October 7, 2019 the RELAY team will have constructed a vast performance vocabulary, will have shared both intimate and communal performances with one hundred different communities, and will have traversed the entire length of the Great River which seminal historian Frederick Jackson Turner calls “the field, the theatre, and the basis of the civilization of the Western World.”

Over the course of the RELAY the team will travel the length of the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to Louisiana. They will undertake this 2,300-mile adventure on foot to fully appreciate the lived environments that shape those they engage with. I will also use the preliminary research and fieldwork journey to construct the first by-foot trail map of the entire Mississippi. After the field work is complete the resulting documentation of the RELAY, map, movement research, and stories will be used to construct an original online archive for public use. My archive goal is to assert the importance of movement as a critical cultural form and foster a greater appreciation for the built and natural environments that we persist within. 

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $10
    "LACE-UP": Personal, hand-written thank you letter snail mailed to you from the RELAY team—#shareable on social media of your choice. ($10.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $25
    "1 MILER": Above + a set of 5 “The River is Calling” postcards—spread the word to family and friends. ($24.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    "5K": Above + a 3656.43K (2272 mi) Runners Sticker. ($48.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    "10K": Above + the opportunity to have your story shadowed and archived as part of the RELAY project. ($98.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    "HALF-MARATHON": Above + a collectible RELAY Map Set (100 illustrated, newly mapped routes for walking or running along the Mississippi River). ($233.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    "MARATHON": Above + a studio visit with RELAY team and creator Victoria Bradford. ($483.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $2500
    "ULTRA": Above + Poster-sized map of your choice of one-day/location segment of your choice out of Mississippi River route, autographed by RELAY team. ($2473.00 is tax deductible.)

Victoria Bradford Styrbicki

Victoria Bradford Styrbicki (b. 1980) is an artist and cultural producer working across the lines of performance, research, and activism. She currently works as Executive and Artistic Director of A House Unbuilt, a non-profit organization built around radical listening practices, …

View Victoria Bradford Styrbicki's profile
  • Update 1: Team Retreat:
    Posted on January 29, 2018


    Team Retreat

    Update 2: Team Spotlight: Nic King-Ruley
    Posted on January 31, 2018


    Nic Ruley

    Here’s to Nic King-Ruley. My incredible AHU Board President and our AMAZING Team Coach. He’s given his time and expertise to get us dancers running, keep us healthy, and call us out on all our shenanigans as well! #allstarcoach#bestboardpresever#madethewholethinghappen #weloveyou#relayofvoices

    Update 3: Team Spotlight: James Pike
    Posted on February 05, 2018



    Here’s to James Pike! My amazing, architecturally aesthetically inclined board member and dear friend who helps me keep my head on straight and lends me a regular dose of self-worth and faith in all this risk-taking. So great to feel someone’s confidence AND their questioning simultaneously. #whatagiftthisjamespike #amanwithtaste #visionaryseeingpotential #believer#thankyousomuch

    Update 4: Celebrate the MATCH
    Posted on February 09, 2018



    THANK YOU 3ARTS! and All of you who got us here!!! — a MATCH made in heaven! :)

    Update 5: Team Spotlight: Dinah Bradford
    Posted on February 09, 2018



    Here’s to my #mom and my #family who are my #1 cheerleaders and fans behind #relayofvoices. Not only do they support me with their questions and ideas but more importantly #teammom #logisticsqueen #projectmanager Dinah Bradford is making this whole thing happen! Just off a two hour FaceTime call with her and full of more to do but also more accomplished!#somuchloveandappreciation #bradfordfamilyfoundation #undyingthanks #bestfamilyever

    Update 6: Digging out from the snow...
    Posted on February 13, 2018


    The Relay Team has been digging out from the snow by digging into rehearsals and holding auditions for new Team members. Here's just a few images from recent work in the "raw space" at Mana Contemporary Chicago, a lagniappe moment in my attic, and a swell of movement at auditions last night in High Concept Labs!

    Thank you again for supporting this work. Only 17 more days, please spread the word and help us reach or even surpass the $5K goal!





    Update 7: Substitutes for Running:
    Posted on February 19, 2018


    Last night in rehearsal we explored some subsitutes for running, including the idea of "bouncing on the spot," over and over and over again...

    #bounceinonespot #transformed at #relayrehearsal last night! One gesture becomes so many things. So exciting to see. Thank you again for joining us in the momentum toward our #crowdfunding goal! We are almost there!! Please spread the word and push us to the FINISH! :)

    Update 8: REACH!
    Posted on February 26, 2018



    We did it! $5,000 raised with so many thanks to all of you! And now with four days left, 10 hours and counting, help us REACH beyond that goal and raise another $500 or even $1000! Spread the word, give again, share the enthusiasm, bounce on the spot, ALL THE THINGS! And again, Thank you...

    We are busy in the studio and on the "campaign" trail, as some have put it, mailing letters, making phone calls, and collaborating with the one hundred communities we are striving to connect with. Help us bring new and exciting methods in dance out into middle America where we will surely learn so much through listening and connecting with so many rooted communities.


    Update 9: A vow and a pact and a hundred new homes!
    Posted on May 27, 2018


    Different river. Different bridge. Different Run.

    Morning. Just arrived home in Chicago. A vow and a pact and a hundred new homes in tow. Still losing myself in it all each day, never stopping. #relayofvoices#thegreatriverrun has only just begun.

    And so much of it is thanks to you!


     “Sacajawea’s celebrated role on the Lewis and Clark expedition wasn’t primarily that of a navigator; she made their being lost more viable by her knowledge... and perhaps by her sense that all this was home, or somebody’s home. Like her, a lot of the white scouts, trappers, and explorers felt at home in the unknown, for though the particular place might be unfamiliar to them, the wild was in many cases their chosen residence.” —Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost


    As of today, May 27, 2018, we traveled over 4000 miles in outreach and scouting along the river in preparation for this expedition on foot in 2019. We have accomplished: 
    105 communities visited
    88 firm commitments as of 5/24
    12 others in positive development
    4 working toward connection
    1 location rural camping
    13 of the above requesting 2 day commitments
    This drive down the river has been amazing. Our connection with the Mississippi River Parkway Commission has been integral—between Anne Lewis, Cordelia Pearson, Carol Zoff, Holly Cain, Norma Pruitt, Kim Williams, and finally Terri McCullough—my interaction with and ability to rely on MRPC commissioners has been amazing. I continue to look toward a formalizing of this partnership beyond the regional connections, but these regional relationships are truly the stuff of what this project is about.
    The real shift over the last nearly thirty days has been the project becoming not just mine, but a true collaboration between each community, each town and city and me and my company. There has been an overwhelming reception to Relay from upriver to where we are now, from "thank you's" to all out brainstorming sessions on how Relay correlates with their city's existing agenda to highlight the river or refocus on the river in some way. From towns the size of Oakville, IA (200-ish population) to major cities such as Memphis (at 600,000), we have found a connect with the community and been able to scale the project, adapt and respond, find the right partners, and listen closely to the needs of the community.
    There is much more follow-up, listening, building, and organizing to make this come together. But people are understanding the vision, connecting, and taking hold — making it theirs. I am so happy to be connected to this and I hope that partnerships with the MRPC, the Water Institute of the Gulf, the State of Louisiana and hope others like MRCTI can see a place in the journey as well.
    We have envisioned a deep dive into the 600+ stories gathered in the months to follow the expedition that will then culminate in a performance at the 2020 Conference of MRPC/MRCTI Conference in Bemidji with tentative invitation from Mayor Rita Albrecht. We would like to tour this performance back into all the towns and cities we have just spent time in and reignite the dialogues we have begun. We have had great support from Grand Rapids, MN performance center on the idea of a tour supported through MN at least and look to extend this more broadly to communities large and small even without traditional presenting spaces.
    I have plans to attend the Water Summit in Minneapolis in July as part of the Arts & Culture Delegation and would like to present to the MRCTI Conference in the Quad Cities. I am also working on presenting at the TEDx Conference to be held in Quincy, IL in October—themed "Big Ideas for Little America" where the organizers have personally expressed an interest in my presenting the project. 
    You can see photos the people we met with via the hashtag #relayofvoices on facebook or instagram, and I hope to update the blog soon on our website. We've just been moving at a breakneck pace.

    AGAIN, I cannot say enough how much this is thanks to you and your support. 

    AND, if you are in Chicago Friday, come see the team perform at Chicago Artists Coalition, 6-9pm!

    Update 10: Relay of Voices Anniversary — Virtual Reunions via Zoom
    Posted on July 07, 2020


    Dear Friend and Supporter,
    I know it's been a while since you've heard from me. Besides being over my head in data, voices, and emotions from last summer's journey downriver, the world has suddenly turned upside down on us all. Life is nothing like we knew it before, and everyone is just trying to adjust and keep our heads above water.

    In the spirit of the Relay, in the desire to connect and listen, Tom and I are reaching out once again despite these difficulties we all face. With the help of my intrepid mother, I have been coordinating a virtualRelay Reunionto coincide with the one year anniversary of our journey downriver last year. Basically this will take place as a series of weekly Zoom meetings where Tom and I will share some reflections from the Relay—both regional and expansive—and invite conversation from those in attendance.

    Each week's attendees will be localized to the regions we were covering physically last year, but we would also like to include any of you who would like to attend and participate.

    The full schedule of Zoom meetings is listed at our website, and you are free to attend any and all on the calendar.

    Thank you again for your generous and continued support of our work and efforts. It continues on with these listening sessions as well as the archival work that makes up most of my days. The river is rich.

    All best,

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Claire Ashley

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make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

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 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council