Relay of Voices, a four-month expedition along the Mississippi River, will reach the Quad-Cities this week in its quest to gather stories of the river region.
Spearheaded by artist and athlete Victoria Bradford Styrbicki, the project's executive director, Relay of Voices is a research expedition to gather "voices" from the landscape and individual residents.
Together with regional volunteers, she and her husband Tom Stybicki, the project collaborator, are relaying from one Mississippi River community to the next on foot and bicycle to hold "deep listening sessions" everywhere they stop.
With a mobile studio, Relay of Voices will visit more than 100 communities in 10 states to engage residents in storytelling and to learn how people live with water and the natural resources that surround it. Daily stops are being made in communities about 20 to 40 miles apart.
"We're trying to understand life on the Mississippi in 2019 and how the water affects individual lives and how individuals affect the water," Bradford Styrbicki said in a telephone interview Thursday, Aug. 15.
After reaching Clinton on Thursday, Relay of Voices is headed to LeClaire on Friday, Aug. 16, the Quad-Cities on Saturday, Aug. 17, and Muscatine on Sunday, Aug. 17.
Along the way, Relay of Voices is conducting interviews with three to six people from each community to engage people in the artistic process and sharing those stories during public performances.
The couple will "relay the voices" and listen to others during free storytelling events across the region. "We tell stories in a performance way, sometimes its in movements and interactions with the audience," said Bradford Styrbicki is a performance artist/dancer. "I do social choreography, which is looking at people's actions and behaviors in their everyday lives, rituals and how that tells a story."
- LeClaire, 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, at the Buffalo Bill Museum and River Pilot's Pier, 199 Front St.
- Davenport, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, in front of the Figge Art Museum.
- Muscatine, 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18, Riverview Center, Harbor Drive.
Prior to the performances, interviews are being planned with: LeClaire residents and business owners Bob Schiffke, Connie Curlott, Ryan Burchett, Cindy Bruhn and friends at Pelo's. In the Quad-Cities, interviews will be with: Patrick Allie, Rock Island Arsenal Museum director; Jeff Reiter, the city of Bettendorf's economic development director; and Kevin Maynard, Quad-City Arts' executive director. In Muscatine, interviews will be with: Mayor Diana Broderson; Muscatine Community College President Dr. Naomi DeWinter; Greg Jenkins, Greater Muscatine Chamber CEO; and Terry Eagle of the National Pearl Museum.
The project, which began July 9 at the headwaters, launched with a full team of relay members and support staff, said Dinah Bradford, Relay of Voices' logistics manager and Bradford Styrbicki's mother.
"There was a team, but they couldn't all commit to 120 days along the river. It's just the two of them now," she said of her daughter and son-in-law. "They're traveling to 104 communities, but they're taking 120 days to do it."
The Stillwater, Minnesota, couple are expected to reach the mouth of the Mississippi at the Gulf of Mexico on Nov. 5.
All the voices and stories will eventually become part of a book by Bradford Styrbicki.
"We don't have an agenda, we're not trying to write a book about water quality or navigation channels," Bradford Styrbicki said. "But we are going to write a book and talk about all those things through the voices of people who live those things."
Once complete, stops will have been made in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The project has partnered with dozens of convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, city and county governments, individual volunteers as well as arts, culture and educational organizations.
Local partners included Visit Quad-Cities, Figge Art Museum and the LeClaire Tourism Bureau. Other partners include Great River Road, Mississippi River Network, Water Institute of the Gulf, and Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.