Talking Suitcases  is an innovative and creative project for the schools. Participants create Talking Suitcases on topics like Immigration or Family History, or about their everyday lives and culture. They can gather their own ancestor or family stories or create personal tales to tell in their Talking Suitcases. Either way, they create multiple handmade objects out of simple materials that embody the stories they wish to tell. If time permits, they also decorate the suitcase itself, often making it into a partial diorama of their story. The final projects can be shared in classrooms or in a larger community events. They can be primarily visual displays with story labels, or they can be displayed in performance as well.

Talking Suitcases is a great project for classes of mixed ELL and non-ELL speakers, since students can work at their own level, and most of the work is visual arts-based. It offers a rich vocabulary of visual elements for students with limited English skills, and offers their fluent English-speaking peers a rare chance to see more deeply into the ELL students’ world.

Recent Projects: Hancock Elementary School, St. Paul MN (with ArtStart), Hastings Elementary School, Hastings, MN, Southwest High School, Minneapolis, MN, and El Colegio, Minneapolis MN, in partnership with Intermedia Arts; Hudson Middle School, at the Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson, WI; J.J. Hill School, St. Paul, MN (independent); and Frost Lake Elementary School, St. Paul, MN; Equity Team and Staff Training, Cedar Park Elementary Apple Valley MN, Stephens Elementary, Dawson, MN (Arts&Legacy grant, 2011-12).

For more information about bringing Talking Suitcases into your school contact Susan Armington at