Story Stitchers aim to turn art into activism

SAINT LOUIS, MI. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - 2020 was the deadliest year for gun violence in decades, and although the stats are not final for this year, it looks like things did not improve.

As the federal government and states try to figure out how to stop the killings, a group of painters, musicians, singers, songwriters, poets and dancers are using their talents to try to create positive change by turning their art into activism, and they hope it’s a movement that will catch on across the country.

There’s a powerful message from young people who have grown up seeing their friends, family and neighbors impacted by violence.

“We’re tired of just seeing the same old, same old, and we want the change to happen,” explains She’Kinah Taylor of why she joined the Stitchers.

Meet The Story Stitchers -- an artist collective that’s creating positive change throughout St. Louis.

“I’m an artist and I wanted to do something about gun violence,” said Susan Colangelo, the founder of The Story Stitchers.

Colangelo and eight artists started Story Stitchers in 2013 by stitching panels chronicling the violence in their city. Her passion grew into a larger calling, creating a pathway for young people to break out of the cycle of crime and poverty.

Sixteen to 24-year-olds who live in under-invested neighborhoods hold socially conscious podcasts, create music together, hold community dance competitions and work to improve their neighborhoods. Each person who steps out on the stage gets paid for their performance.

“All of a sudden you get $100 for learning how to be a podcaster. And you’re on Apple Music,” Colangelo said.

Colangelo further says that “You’re getting more respect. You feel like people are recognizing that you do have important things to say you do have ideas about what could make your block better, like, how can you get rid of that empty lot? Well, we can activate it. Why don’t we do a show there? If you can just move them a little bit with strong mentors that are culturally relevant, give them a place where they feel secure, where they have friends, where they feel safe to gather. They’ll stick around and they’ll change.”

Turning their art into activism, changing one life at a time.

The young people involved with Story Stitchers all have to audition to become part of the group. Many times, those auditions are done right on the spot at community gatherings.

The kids we talked to want to take this program nationwide and build community centers focused on the arts in underserved communities. Story Stitchers brings in professional artists to work with the youth.

Although nobody on staff gets paid, it costs about $300,000 a year to finance paying the artists and kids. The money comes from grants and personal donations. If you would like to find out more, check out their website


Contributor(s) to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor. To receive a free weekly email on Smart Living from Ivanhoe, sign up at: