Kevin D. Cordi
National Story/Storytelling Consultant
Kevin Cordi is based in Columbus, and served as The Ohio State University’s first Academic Storyteller-in-Residence, using stories to address issues of diversity, community, and equity. He is a teaching artist on the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education’s Artists in Schools roster.
How did you participate in the arts as a child?
When I was young I would draw, often times when I was supposed to be listening. I would have mini-battles on the paper. I had to create a story on every page. Whether it was with images or words, a narrative was in my mind. My parents raised me on stories of West Virginia. When I joined the drama club as a teen, the program folded the next day. However, this did not stop me from being in the plays and having mini-story concerts every chance I could.
Describe your favorite “a-ha moment” in arts education.
While performing in Japan I shared a story where at the end I unexpectedly pour a drink down my shirt. I asked a little shy elementary student to provide me a glass of water and she gave me one equal to the size of a “Big Gulp” from Seven Eleven. When I got to the part where the King said “always drink from the Great White Mug this side only,” the water rained down on me. This shy one laughed until she almost burst. I realized then that story crosses culture and laughter is good for all.
How do you practice creativity in your own life?
I examine the world as unfolding narratives. I look for the story. Instead of being a tourist of the world, be a “story-ographer.” This is someone who takes the time to see the narrative in front of them, behind them, and all around. I am the person who, when checking in the hotel or paying the gas attendant, asks for the stories and often I am not disappointed.
Name one puzzle, or problem, you are working on in the field right now.
I am aligning how narrative can address the issue of bullying behavior by using what I call Ensemble Storytelling. By using Ensemble Storytelling, educators and kids of all ages jump inside a fictional world, in this case the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I know that when students can use their rich imaginations and develop inquiry together using narrative, they can understand the real contexts that they are placed.
Name an arts educator who impacted you and how they influenced your younger days.
My mother was raised in Clay County West Virginia and every day we traveled there by her telling stories to us. Even though us six kids only took a trip to WV once a year, we knew the place well because my mother was, and is, an amazing captivating storyteller. She is still the resident storyteller of our family and I would never want it any other way. Art resides in all of us but a true artist will pass it on.
What project are you working on that might elevate the arts within local schools?
Every other year since 1995 I have placed stories and art work in a box that travels to a new place every three weeks. The StoryBox Project has collected many stories and served many roles. Two years ago I traveled to Qatar and both American students and students from the Middle East engaged in the project. At the same time I worked with the former Children’s Poet, Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, (from Ohio) and we collected over 27 unfinished poems and asked kids all over America to finish them. This year over 40 young adult authors, many from Ohio, have contributed unfinished stories with the intent that middle and high school students will complete them. The launching site is in Columbus at the James Thurber Center. This box of stories will go to Harlem New York, North Carolina, and Canada. I already have numerous applications for more schools and we are seeking a publisher for these co-created students with author and what I like to call ‘soon to be published’ student writers.
Connect with Kevin at www.kevincordi.com.
Portrait of an Arts Advocate is a monthly feature profiling an OAAE member active in advocating for arts education in Ohio. If you’d like to submit your information, or to learn more about this feature email firstname.lastname@example.org.