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Home + Place, a project of the Houston Grand Opera, is using oral histories conducted with diverse communities in the city to generate projects created by students and local groups that will be performed at neighborhood festivals. By using opera to stimulate intimate, personal storytelling, the project bridges cultures and generations and fosters a stronger sense of civic identity.

Kashmere Gardens on Houston’s Northside is defined by longstanding community members who have put down strong roots.  Through the years, the community has changed:  neighbors don’t know one another, fresh food in local stores is difficult to find, and people aren’t speaking out against cuts in neighborhood services.  Kristi Rangel, the new Principal of Kashmere Gardens Elementary,wants to break the cycle by “breaking ground.”  She wants her school to be a center of activity by all members of the community.  Principal Rangel’s long range plan is to build a garden to grow fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers to beautify the community and offer healthy eating options.  The garden will also offer a place for community members to exchange gardening ideas, recipes, stories and meet.  With community involvement,  Kashmere Gardens Elementary will become a hub of resources, healthy eating, local heroes, legends and legacies.

Kristi maintains that community projects can empower while being a powerful lesson.  “Responsibility and ownership are things we tend to run away from as we get older, but children benefit from learning how they can impact their environment and become empowered through self-sufficiency, positive goals and one singular message:  We are the change.”

In collaboration with Kashmere Gardens, Home + Place will share in the storytelling projects that bind a community together.  During the month of October, artist Janice Freeman is helping the youngest students to create painted garden gnomes to protect the seedlings.  Photographer Geoff Winningham and his Rice Center photography students will witness.  Storybook Opera artists will tell stories with music about gardens and seasons, Opera to Go! artists will sing the story of Velveteen Rabbit in a fully staged production at the school and older kids will get to engage in operatic storytelling at the student matinee performance of The Barber of Seville at the Wortham Theater Center.  Other projects discussed are:  student-created banners around the school site, sewing legacy quilts from objects collected in the community, planning and maintaining a butterfly garden to promote butterfly migration through the neighborhood, and creating songs that tell the stories of those who call Kashmere Gardens “home.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user rutlo.


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JULY 18, 2012

Home + Place

Houston, TX