An Urban Understory

By: Naomi Steinberg

Beneath walkways, roadways, bike lanes and train tracks lie networks underground that contribute to the thriving life of the city of Burnaby. “An Urban Understory,” a two day story-collecting workshop hosted by artist Naomi Steinberg, strives to tell the stories of systems unseen. Attendees are invited to be curious about what happens beneath layers of concrete and consider the underground urban environment from an economic, social, and environmental sustainability framework.

Steinberg has a plethora of life experiences that have inspired her current work within Burnaby. She plays the flute, is an avid storyteller and has traveled around the world without taking an airplane. Despite being a traveller, Steinberg grew up in the Lower Mainland and has strong ties to Burnaby especially as an urban environment. As she explains, “An Urban Understory” aims to explore “how the layers under a city contribute to, or hinder, economic, social, and environmental sustainability.” The workshop hopes to build “connections between city departments, Indigenous knowledge keepers, and neighbours while also encouraging imaginative storytelling and citizen engagement. She hopes for attendees to have “a steadfast curiosity about the world, about human psychology, about why the leaves turn in the Autumn and the birds sing in the Spring.”

Steinberg’s passion for storytelling and community building comes from her memorable experiences in storylistening. Her interest emerged when she began to attend monthly Story Swaps. She recalls that “after a couple years of listening I thought I wanted to try giving back” and “telling that first story was such a powerful experience that I never turned back.”

Steinberg recommends those who wish to engage in creative work develop a grounding practice. This can range from nurturing not only a connection with one’s own body but also to the land and surrounding environment. As she shares, “keep your heart and mind tuned to your needs as well as the needs of your community. Practice listening to trees, flowers, rivers, the ocean, grandmothers, enemies, teachers, and fools.”

Join other creatives, storytellers, and story listeners on the first day (May 6) to learn how to collect stories within and about the city. Gather at Shadbolt Centre on the second day (May 8) to put into practice the sharing of stories and do so creatively with others.

Burnaby Festival of Learning
An Urban Understory
May 6: 3:00pm – 5:00pm, Burnaby Civic Square, 6100 Willingdon Ave, Burnaby
May 8: 4:00pm – 6:00pm, Room 103, Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, 6450 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby