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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release February 10, 2011

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

State Historical Museum presents Charlotte Blake Alston in concert

International storytelling artist performs next week at Historical Building in Des Moines

(DES MOINES) – International storytelling artist Charlotte Blake Alston will perform in concert next week at the State Historical Building in Des Moines.

Alston will perform at 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Tickets are $7 per person, $5 for children 12 and younger, at the door. Advance tickets and group sales are available by contacting Maureen Korte at maureen.korte@iowa.gov or 515-281-4132.

“Charlotte Blake Alston incorporates song and instrumentation into a storytelling experience that is rich in folktales, legends and personal stories from African American oral and cultural traditions,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Mary Cownie said. “She performs in venues all around the world and we are delighted to bring her to the State Historical Museum.”

Alston’s Des Moines concert will revolve around stories that affirm and celebrate life and the gifts individuals bring to the human experience, and fun and entertaining tales that will leave audiences laughing well after the show.

As a solo artist, Alston enhances her performances with traditional instruments such as djembe, mbira, shekere or the 21-stringed kora. In 1999, she began studying the kora and the West African history-telling traditions of Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Guinea Bissau under the tutelage of highly respected Senegalese griot (jali), Djimo Kouyate.

Alston’s credits include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kimmel Center, the Women of the Word Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, and a refugee camp in northern Senegal.

Alston has worked with Carnegie Hall as a featured artist on the Carnegie Hall Family Concert Series and as host of its preschool concert series, “Carnegie’s Kids.” She also represented Carnegie Hall in 2003 when she hosted a series of concerts in Miyazaki, Japan, with the Eddie Arron String Quartet and fellow storyteller, Motoko.

She has been a featured storyteller at The National Storytelling Festival, The National Festival of Black Storytelling, and at regional festivals throughout North America. She also has been a featured artist at the Presidential Inaugural Festivities in Washington, D.C., and the Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Children’s Inaugural Celebration in Harrisburg, Pa.

A recipient of the prestigious Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Alston was one of four Americans selected to perform at the first International Storytelling Field Conference in Ghana and was a featured artist at the Second Int’l Festival in Cape Town, South Africa.

In 2005, she was the sole American selected to perform on the main stage at the “STIMMEN: Voices Festival” in Basel, Switzerland, and, in 2009, she was the recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston Award, the highest award bestowed by the National Association of Black Storytellers.

More information about Alston can be found at www.charlotteblakealston.com.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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