Cap’s Off to You!–Barbara Schutzgruber and Celebrating Story

The name “Barbara Schutzgruber” was on my radar due to her active involvement and expertise in the storytelling world. Yet, I have come to respect her beyond a name and more as a giving and kind person.

We put a call out on Facebook for the need to find someone who could help us with masks. We wanted to phase from full-virtual to limited-sized/proper-distanced live events. To protect performers and the audience alike, we needed everyone to wear masks. However, supplies were low. Barbara was recommended. She promptly responded and created masks in the blue/orange colors of Story Crossroads with over two months to spare. Then in early June 2020, we cheered her on as she received the ORACLE Award from the National Storytelling Network for the North Central Region. Well, we certainly love her in this Western Region, too.

She honors and loves folktales as much as we do at Story Crossroads. She joked that people who tell folktales are “bone collectors” because the “skeleton of a story is already there” and makes it easy for plot structure as opposed to creating the whole story.

She may tease though she has a serious body of folktales and ballads developed for over 38 years. She mainly collects stories that feature weaving, spinning, and stitching. She expressed, “Old stories still have a lot to say–a depth there that is timeless, and has the ability to relate to many audiences.” Her weaving of stories and fibers earned her a recent spotlight with the Michigan League of Handweavers.

She has attended many fairs and historical places. She finds that simply calling out to someone, “Come here, I have a story for you!” can have people shy away. When she is sitting at her loom and talking while weaving, people are more likely to draw near and listen to the stories.

Barbara noted that the Fiber Arts Community–around the nation and locally–were contacted in early March 2020 to respond to the shortage of masks. She is part of the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild. She was in “production mode” when notified by us. She had sewn several hundred for the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the University of Michigan Hospital and decided to donate her time for medical needs as well as for her fellow storytellers.

Barbara is a regular donor for online and silent auctions with her fiber works featured through the National Storytelling Network, Northlands Storytelling Network, and other storytelling organizations and scholarships. Being kind to Story Crossroads was a natural gesture. She stated, “I know storytellers don’t have money–can’t afford it!” With the pandemic, finances are even tighter.

She compared her pieces–like shawls and scarves–as part of her repertoire. Once she donates them, those pieces are no longer in her repertoire.

Yet, as a storyteller, she said, “Once you learned something, it’s in your repertoire to stay.” She explained this is why she is more willing to donate her fiber works and focuses her payments to be more storytelling-focused.

Thus, her peers recognize her for her fiber works as well as for her caliber of professionalism and craftsmanship in telling stories. For the first time ever, the ORACLE awards hosted by the National Storytelling Network had an ORACLE Concert and Barbara was selected for this honor. She laughed that she learned about it a little over a week before the event. She was notified by someone from Pacific Daylight Time and she was on Eastern Daylight Time. That call came at midnight. “Though what news!” Dorothy Cleveland from Minnesota gathered all the testimonials and details for the award. See the picture below of accepting the ORACLE by virtual means as well as the ORACLE concert later on.

Barbara’s wish is that people will see her as a “solid, consistent performer.” She is all that as well as a “solid, consistent” human being.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Barbara Schutzgruber!

Remember, Story Crossroads also have year-round events such as the house concerts to be transitioned into live/virtual with limited-seating and proper distancing.  This is also a countdown to virtual “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities” on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Starting June 22, 2020, we will have a 9-part Blog Series called “Reawakenings & Reflections” to focus on each of the 9 days of the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival.