Briefly describe your project’s timeline and development.
Through the NEW INC Cultural Futures program, we were able to connect with both the San José Museum of Art (SJMA) and Opera Philadelphia during the first quarter of 2021 as potential partners to help us explore this idea of a microstory. We worked with SJMA first to develop an initial foundation for the idea and began working with Opera Philadelphia towards the end of the second quarter of 2021. The work with Opera Philadelphia is still ongoing.
Because our idea was very early-stage, the collaboration with SJMA was a way of understanding and elaborating on how a microstory would function. What are the mechanics of it? How would it be written? Who would it target? In addition to this, we needed to understand the context in which the museum operated. We conducted an initial workshop to explore the variety of external facing activities as well as the constituencies of the museum. In a subsequent workshop, we dove deeper into the works of art held by the museum and discovered the potential of generating stories from a recent project that they had released called 50X50: Stories of Visionary Artists from the Collection. The work provided insight into how stories could be written in a condensed format that combined the who/what/when/where/how of a story with an impact that could resonate with an individual. In this process, we discovered that there were high-level themes that could be attached to each story and could serve as an organizational structure to group similar story types. We extracted some of these microstories and sketched a rudimentary application with HTML/CSS/JS to test out the experience of piecing together larger narratives from these microstories. Some of this content was used to create quickly sketched Instagram stories where each microstory occupied one segment to form a larger narrative.
The process of working with SJMA has greatly informed the second microstory iteration for Opera Philadelphia, which is currently in progress. For Opera Philadelphia, the microstory format has been a way to reframe the abundance of content generated by their Reflection & Re-Vision initiative, which looks deeper into the way opera intersects with culture, society, and history. In particular, our workshops and discussions have revealed that the condensed format of the microstory offers a way to convert long-form scholarly content into a more compact way of delivering ideas to students and general audiences. While the process is ongoing, the team at Opera Philadelphia is excited by this breakthrough, and we are now working with them to identify a set of microstories that will be related to their upcoming production of El Cimarrón.