in toto [ in toh-toh ]
OUR BEGINNINGS up to the PRESENT
InToto Creative Arts Forum began as Kyle Tyree's idea to
bring theatre to the guests at The Firehouse Shelter. Using
the exercises, games, and experiences of theatre to promote
a safe and creative outlet, these classes would help to combat
the daily worries and concerns the guests face. Kyle reached out to Tam DeBolt, Executive Director of Terrific New Theatre, to see if she might be interested in playing a part in the making of this non-profit. Their discussions began RIGHT at the same time the pandemic was changing our world in the spring of 2020. They continued to plan and decided to expand the idea to include other forms of artistic expression...including poetry, written word, improvisational comedy, and visual art. Anne Riegel, Executive Director at the Firehouse, was part of the early planning, as was her son Hunter.
Ashley M. Jones, prior to her appointment as our current Poet Laureate for the State of Alabama, was excited to join the team. She brought along another poet and Magic City Poetry Festival connection, Laura Second - - better known as "Mojo Mamma". Next came theatre artist Rebecca Yeager - actress, director, and stage combat expert, and then Melanie Jeffcoat - screenwriter, actress, and improv comic. Ivy Borden, an art student at the University of Alabama, was with us for guidance on the visual art ideas. These seven began planning creative art sessions for the Firehouse guests. Before his theatre, Encore Theatre and Gallery, reopened, Marc Raby was with us to help plan and rehearse some of our planned theatre sessions.
Early classes were held over ZOOM, which allowed the team to fine-tune the structure before more fully integrating the classes into other programs for the guests at The Firehouse. Once we began in-person sessions, we were fortunate to have MORE spirited, multi-disciplinary creatives join in the effort to make a safe and brave space for all of us. Dani Parmar and Doug Baulos brought their vibrant styles to visual art classes, introducing working with textiles, painting with homemade inks, making our own books, and plant emulsions on fabric. Lauren Nicholson came to us one day to help assemble and plant the container gardens in the courtyard. She stayed with us and has even created the Movement and Yoga branch of inTOTO - along with Dani and Holly Herzfeld. Chris Davis is a regular volunteer, leading improv classes, and Caleb Clark joins us once a month to teach watercolor. We have author and poet Joi Miner leading monthly creative writing sessions and Pat Anderson-Flowers, Spiritual Director and writer, has become a weekly volunteer.
Our team continues to grow with more artists of all genres offering InToto sessions to guests at the Firehouse, Pathways, and now Heroes in the Hood and CERC (Community Education Resource Center). We provide outlets for creative expression, physical movement, and we hope to give each and every attendee an opportunity for freedom, vulnerability, and normalcy. Salaam Green, along with our own Laura Secord, led a series of Healing by Writing sessions at Pathways, along with Elizabeth Vander Kamp, storyteller and ZENtangle specialist, who offered a class on structured doodling. Holly Terrell, mixed media artist, helped us make leather bracelets.
We are InToto - completely, entirely, as a whole - offering creative spaces where others can be creative.