The Keweenaw Storytelling Center sets opening day for July 6

Copper Country

CALUMET, Mich. (WJMN) – The Keweenaw Storytelling Center has been a vision in process for nearly 5 years and it will now open to the public with their first exhibit on July 6.

“We first started thinking about it in 2017 when we were doing the Red Jacket Jamboree in Calumet and we wanted a place that could be a storytelling center but also the headquarters for the Red Jacket Jamboree,” said Rebecca Glotfelty, executive director for Real People Media.

Keweenaw Storytelling Center front counter

To start, they will have one exhibit, a puppet show space and a live performance space as well. The center is ran by Real People Media, a non-profit organization that aims to help people tell their stories through the literary, visual and performing arts according to Glotfelty.

“The Keweenaw Storytelling Center is a center for the community to come together and share their stories,” said Glotfelty. “So it’s not only about teaching people how to tell their stories, but teaching people how to listen to other people and so this is a center that we have performance arts in the form of the Red Jacket Jamboree and Theatre, we have puppet shows for young kids and we have an exhibit space for visual storytelling.”

They’ve already had two performances in the space and have more coming up.

“We have a small theatre, we can seat up to 100 people in our theater and we have had a showing of the Red Jacket Jamboree, showing and recording, we record the old time variety radio show right here in this space and you can be part of the live audience,” said Glotfelty. “We also have a series called the voice box sessions and that’s our singer/songwriter series and that also includes mentoring youth in the performing arts.”

Puppet show area

Glotfelty says a resource like this for the community is important because it’s an outlet many youth don’t have access to.

“We are one of the few venues in the area and frankly anywhere that’s kind of a family-friendly venue, we’re alcohol-free, we provide a safe secure place for people to open up and share their stories whether it be through poetry or songwriting and everybody needs a cheerleader in their life especially young kids to keep going and that’s what we do,” said Glotfelty.

The center itself will be open free of charge to anyone for their visual arts exhibit but they charge ticket prices for shows.

“We would love it if someone would leave a donation on their way out but they can come in,” said Glotfelty. “The performances are open by tickets you have to buy a ticket to the performance but we offer a lot of opportunities for people to volunteer to get involved so that they can attend events for free.”

Their first exhibit will be “Around the World in 80 Hats.”

“It’s an exhibit of utilitarian and ceremonial hats from around the world,” said Glotfelty. “The collection comes from Linda Weston she lives in Charlevoix, Michigan and she’s travelled to more than 100 different countries and over the years she started picking up hats when she went to visit these countries, some of them she bought and some of them she actually bartered with people so they might have been wearing a hat at the time and she would take baseball caps or different things to trade with them.”

The storytelling center is located at 215 5th Street in Calumet, the building was donated by Family Dollar which used to be located there.

“We found an architect, McLain Clutter, who did pro-bono drafts and renderings of what this space could be and then at the end of 2018 we asked Family Dollar Corporation to donate the building to us for this purpose,” said Glotfelty.

Getting the building ready for use has taken time and a lot of hard work.

“In March of that year, a quarter of our roof collapsed on the building before we actually got it,” said Glotfelty. “So Family Dollar decided that they were just going to just demolish the building and even though it was a big undertaking and a big project to acquire a building that had sustained such substantial damage we kind of bit the bullet and, we almost felt that we weren’t ready but we felt that we had to because the building was going to be demolished without us so they decided to donate the building to us and then also donate cash funds to repair the ceiling.”

The space is still a work in progress with more features to come even after the opening date.

“Well we’ve been working on the building for two years and that included having to pull up 15,000 square feet of flooring that had been water damaged, pulling all the floor staples, taking down pegboard, putting up drywall, painting the ceiling, painting the walls, and we will be open the first week in July, after July 4th,” said Glotfelty.

The Keweenaw Storytelling Center will also be adding an old-fashion soda fountain in the future and building walls to separate the theatre from the rest of the space. They also decorate their front window for each season, so be sure to check it out even if you’re just passing through.

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