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Barbara Reese

Barbara Reese, who lives off the grid, taps into her environs for inspiration.

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Finding a Voice

By Eleanor Shelton

Photo by Shawn O’Connor

04.19.17

A local poet inspires youths to express themselves through the arts.

It was through writing poetry that Aspen resident Barbara Reese finally found her voice. She wanted to encourage children to begin that powerful journey early, which compelled her to create Voices, a Valley nonprofit that amplifies voices in our community through the arts.

“We want every young person to find their voice,” says Reese. “The arts, whether through song, dance, writing, mime, theater or the visual arts, are all powerful ways to express a vision, a thought.”

Since September, Voices has offered programs in the local schools, designed in conjunction with teachers, to bring a unique component to learning that lets students express themselves. In Carbondale Middle School, 70 fifth-graders interviewed community members to extract their stories. These stories were recorded and added to the Voices Bank.

“The kids loved it,” says Reese. “The community members were so different from the students. One interviewee was 78. She went to school in a one-room schoolhouse with no electricity. She told the story of learning to yodel as she baled hay.”

Up next for the nonprofit, students at Basalt High School will create an original piece with music and dynamic movement, creative writing and the visual arts. The project will be directed by Voices Executive Director Renee Prince and spoken word poet and musician Myrlin Hepworth.