How it Works

One day in the Relay Cycle…

(Relay No. 1) Landscapes

Each morning at 8am Relay will the physical journey from one town to the next. The roughly marathon distance will be approached as a duathlon—a run out of town, cycling the longer stretch between, followed by a run into the next town. The Relay Coach and support van will keep close contact with the runners and cyclists for navigation and safety.

Athletes will “gather the landscape” making observations with their senses as well as with GPS body cameras mounted to their torsos. This landscape data will be used in mapping analyis by the Water Institute of the Gulf as well as shared at the storytelling event held in each town upon Relay's arrival.

(Relay No. 2) Voices

Each afternoon Relay researchers will begin a relay of information. Through one-on-one interactions with six local residents in the arrival town, Relay will “gather the voices” of that community. For several hours that day, the local hosts will invite researchers to observe their everyday lives, witnessing how they are moved by the environment around them and the issues and concerns they face each day. Researchers may find opportunities to participate in activities that are a part of their local host’s day, as well as enter into conversation about general and specific topics.

The intention behind using this embedded method is to truly place the voice, or story, of the individual in the location they are in, and to get passed the programmed narratives we all tell. By building familiarity and relationships through art, Artistic Director Victoria Bradford Styrbicki believes you can create a greater opportunity to affect change and make an impact.

As each researcher spends time with their local host, gathering their voice, the researcher will use a practice of “whole body listening” to make observations as well as using audio recorders. This story data will also be used in mapping analyis by the Water Institute of the Gulf as well as in the community storytelling events presented that day and subsequent days along the River.


(Relay No. 3) Gathering

Each evening around 6pm the Relay Team will begin a third relay within the framework of a story gathering hosted by each community, slightly different from one town to the next. As the communities are each so unique—in scale, of course, ranging in population from 200 to 600,0000, but also in culture—the urban centers of Memphis, TN and St. Louis, MO to the rural enclaves of Morganza, LA and Burlington, IA the team is working to leave behind some inherent value specific to each place. In each town a diverse group of local citizens and the Relay Team will gather, brought together by the multiple contacts that Bradford has cultivated over this past year.

The intention of the event is threefold: to “relay” to the local citizens what has been learned from upriver, to “relay” to them what was witnessed that day in their own community, and to invite them to “relay” their own stories and insights on the connectedness between what came before and what is present in their own voices and landscape.

A House Unbuilt has devised a storytelling framework to achieve these goals which includes participation from those gathered from the community. It is adaptable to different venues and spaces as well as audience sizes. In some communities, the story gathering will deviate from this structure but retain the ethos of community sharing.