Living Out Loud

Living Out Loud

Each BCL semester has taken a different approach to integrating the arts. In the Fall of 2018, we created a massive community light show; in the Spring of 2019, we painted large-scale abstract portraits; in the Fall of 2020, we created zines. As varied as our collaborations have been, there are a few key elements they have all had in common: we have built a long-term relationship with an artist-in-residence; we have used the arts to both synthesize and express our learning; and artistic expression has been a deliberate tool for community-building. 

This semester, BCL7 partnered with All Heart Inspirations, and its two heartful guides, Ferene Paris Meyer and Josh Meyer. Yes, BCL7 crossed into an area that no BCL cohort had ventured into before: performance art. 

Storytelling can be a powerful connector, but for it to be authentic it needs to be fueled by personal authenticity and interpersonal trust. Throughout the semester, Ferene and Josh met with us in a variety of community settings, and facilitated a wide array of experiences, all of which helped our learning community to take greater and greater risks. 

At HULA Lakeside, the beautiful setting brought our community together.
Ferene held us in so many ways… She even held a Mini-Mariah! 
At the Flynn, Ferene introduced the power of “Third Spaces.” 
At the Fletcher Free Library, we explored a mural that illustrates “hypervisibility and invisibility” by hearing from its subject.
Inspired by our time with All Heart, BCL7 responded to a request from Stephanie Wilson and Trish Denton, who were filming a community-based music video on Church St…
…and ended up starring in a pivotal segment of X-Votive
The spirit of performance art shows up everywhere! 

As the weeks unfolded, our group began to transition from merely experiencing stories and storytelling to seeing ourselves as storytellers. Our partners from All Heart set the tone, and asked students themselves to step up. By early December, we began to discuss how a community “Story Slam” could harness vulnerability, spotlight our stories and build community. 

In the ONE Center’s Event Space–the space where we would eventually host our Story Slam, we reflected on the power of objects to hold stories.
Josh offered feedback to students who were in the process of crafting their stories.

It was great working with Josh and Ferene. They both had great ideas to help me expand on my story. Josh was super helpful for me in the process of writing… Ferene shared some amazing stories and artwork that changed us. I will remember this for a while, and be reminded of their visits often.


I loved working with them. Ferene really embodies that confident, relevant female activist and badass that  I feel like wasn’t really present in my life. Her honesty and straight-up-ness was that key I needed to feel like I could talk about my struggles. I really, really appreciate our time with them.


It was amazing to see our All Heart partners  as an example of openness and vulnerability. They led the way to our trusting relationship. They also were so loving and supportive. It made me feel much more confident in writing and then sharing my story.


I really liked working with Ferene and Josh. They really welcomed our group and had a lot of patience and knowledge to share with us. I’ll look at people differently now, in the sense that they each have their own stories and experiences.


Working with Ferene and Josh really gave me insight into the importance of sharing stories. It was evident with our event today that sharing stories can really bring people together and establish a great vibe. Years from now I am going to continue to remember the importance of storytelling when it comes to connecting with people.


Working with All Heart was a unique experience of vulnerability… Stories are what make us human. When we share with others, we really dive into what it means to connect and be the beings we can.


As the plans for our final event came together, students gave it a name: Living Out Loud, a nod to All Heart Inspirations. One student committee managed our communications strategy; another designed the ambiance of the Event Space; and a third group curated the stories that would be shared. On December 20th, 2021, two dozen stories graced the stage. More than fifty BCL parents and BCL community partners attended.

The atmosphere was magical. Each story unfolded in a vacuum of spellbound silence, and ended with explosive, loving applause. The variety of narratives was amazing, but each story demonstrated deep self-knowledge and honesty, and each performer on the stage showed phenomenal courage. 

Our co-emcees, Cooper and Felipe, kept the pace tight and the spirits light.
Ahmad holds the audience rapt, as he shares a story about the power of rap.
Leo read a poem that grew from a photograph he took in Puerto Rico.
Henry’s story about an errant golf ball had the room filled with laughter.
Engagement?  Pride?  Empowerment? Yes!  But it was also just plain fun.

It was very heartwarming how people were able to go on and tell a group of people their experiences. I’m happy to have had the confidence to share my story among others.


I was confident going on to the stage. I was nervous before but I guess hearing everyone before tell their story inspired me.


There were funny ones, and there were emotional ones that hit hard. Overall I was doing my best to listen and feel all the emotions which made it hit even harder.


It was interesting because I know people by who they are in class but not much outside of that. I got a closer look into their personal lives and it makes me feel a little closer with everyone. It was a little nerve racking to be sharing our story with people we’ve never met before, but it was very relieving stepping off the stage with people clapping and my classmates cheering me on.


I loved hearing everyone’s story! I had heard almost every story before, but I picked up on new things the second time around. That felt good. It was reassuring and inspiring to see the happiness on the people’s faces that went before me. Then getting to experience telling my story, getting over my nerves right as I spoke into the mic, and then the same rewarding feeling. Finally, watching those after me get that same reward doubled what I was feeling before. After everyone shared their story, I could hear the guests thanking us and sharing parts of their lives that related to our stories. That was beautiful!


Without Ferene and Josh I don’t think I would’ve found the courage to present my story on that stage. I’m grateful for the time they dedicated to our group and we couldn’t have done it without them… Before I shared my story I was doubting myself a bit, thinking it wouldn’t be good enough but after I read I felt fulfilled. 


It feels fitting to close with a few perspectives of those who were in the audience. Dan Cahill is Burlington’s Land Steward; Aimee Arandia Østensen is an educator at Shelburne Farms; Kevin Worden is a BCL parent. 

Attending BCL’s Living Out Loud Story Slam was a wonderful December gift! The warm glow of the gathering in celebration of life, experience, and artistry was precisely what’s been missing during the past year and half of isolation and distancing. Thank you BCL7 for bravely sharing your wounds, vulnerability, humor and joy. Your voices feed hope for a better tomorrow built through honest connections, care and community.

Aimee Arandia Østensen

Stories have always fascinated me. As a child, I thought that only interesting and special grown-ups had good stories to tell. But of course we all have stories inside.  When we first arrived for Living Out Loud, the room was charged with nervous excitement, but that quickly gave way to confidence and camaraderie. Sincere introductions were followed by emotional stories, interspersed by hoots and high fives. Wow – the student and teacher stories were amazing!  

Working with their community partners, the BCL students reached within themselves and came out with very personal stories full of suffering and hope, humor and defiance, loss and growth.  Each story was as interesting and special as each student, who are clearly growing up, finding their way in this world, and finding their voices. 

Kevin Worden

This was one of the most transcendent experiences I’ve ever witnessed. Truly, truly amazing. Ferene, your support and hand at guiding these young minds and hearts is just incredible. This is real education. Students learning so deeply about themselves and each other. Witnessing this event changed my life. 

Dan Cahill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s