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Sharing the native culture through story and art

The Laughing Couple, Carolyn Black-Hunt and Rick Hunt, spread the Native American culture of the northeast through storytelling and art. Jonathan Benton. (click for larger version)
November 25, 2009
LITTLETON—A husband and wife duo that share aspects of Native American culture through storytelling, prove that words are worth a thousand lines of illustration.

It is a rare occurrence in today's medley of interactive media that one hears of simple storytelling still going on without special effects or actors and is interestingly educational no less, but that is what Rick Hunt and Carolyn Black-Hunt do. The Littleton-based duo performs in front of large crowds spreading the culture of the Native Americans of the northeast.

"It's just natural to us to share the local native culture," said Rick, "Stories are cultural morals on how to behave. They still have value no matter what language you speak it in."

Carolyn tells tales like Odzihozi and the Lake, an Abenaki creation myth, while Rick turns the story into art and draws the tale live on a four-foot by eight-foot mural that takes about 40 minutes to complete.

"Rick draws so fast it blows people's mind to see it finished and detailed," said Carolyn, "And it inspires people of all ages to be creative."

The couple, officially known as the "Laughing Couple," have shared their stories and art at a variety of venues including schools, theaters, festivals and museums. The two will also be appearing at Whitefield Elementary School Nov. 25 to share eastern woodland tales with fifth graders.

"It's an enormous amount of fun," said Rick, "It's hard not to enjoy the laughter of kids and we have a blast doing it."

The Laughing Couple usually give away the completed mural to the event host and like to involve the children in the creative process when possible.

"Sometimes we have kids get up and participate and draw their favorite animal," said Rick "and on occasion we get dinosaurs."

The couple started storytelling two years ago and noted that it began as a favor to a friend. Well over 80 murals later and the couple has become so well known that they perform all over New England.

"We're pretty much booked for the next six months," said Rick.

The couple's new business seemed almost thrust upon them as chances to promote keep arising including a new website that an acquaintance offered to make for them. They also worked with Vermont Public Radio where Rick's art was featured on their annual fundraiser coffee mug. Tens of thousands of these mugs were sent out during this year's annual pledge drive. "Our storytelling has been it's own creation," said Carolyn, "Every week there's more and more promotion."

Rick and Carolyn also noted that even though they do not appear as the classic Western Indians with cracked tan faces, they are of Native American descent and trace their background to "Eastern Woodland Ancestry," according to Carolyn.

Rick commented that he's been drawing since he "could pick up a pencil" and attended the Mass. College of Art in Boston.

Carolyn graduated from Keene State with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She cited the find of a dusty old book on North Eastern stories from a library in Lincoln many years back, for her love of storytelling.

"The performance is the creation of art itself," said Carolyn, "The story is already there, it just needs to be heard."

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