A Celebration of American Family Stories
Joe and Paula McHugh are a husband and wife team who believe strongly in the power of stories and art to change lives. Joe is an author, storyteller, radio producer, musician, and conference presenter who has produced community ethnic festivals and developed multicultural awareness curricula for public schools. As the founding director of the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia, he designed traveling exhibits and school programs and hosted a weekly history segment on West Virginia Journal for West Virginia Public Television.
Joe has also served as an Artist-in-Residence for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Arts Council. He has worked as a consultant for the Arts in Special Education Project of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. For three years he taught classes in folklore and storytelling at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia, as as part of the Augusta Heritage Arts Program. Joe has worked with juvenile courts around the country teaching youth offenders how to interview the "elders' of their community and then produce public radio programs featuring these interviews.
Paula is a gifted painter, graphic designer, web designer and musician. She has illustrated three of Joe's books Ruff Tales, Better Than Money and the Flying Santa. She designed the American Family Stories website plus others. In 1990 she and Joe created the Raven Radio Theater to explore creative uses of radio theater with young peole. This included on-site "live" FM radio broadcasts of student-produced plays. In 1993, the Raven Radio Theater received major funding from the California Department of Education to develop Visitor from the Past, a unique radio drama tobacco-use curriculum that was distributed to sixth grade students throughout California. In support of this effort, Joe and Paula traveled statewide providing in-service training for teachers.
In 1998, the Raven Radio Theater completed a two-year law-related education project funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the United States Justice Department. Through the ON-AIR Project, Joe and Paula researched, wrote, and produced a series of radio plays focusing on the lives of outstanding American citizens and provided in-the-classroom training for teachers from sixty pilot schools. To help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the juvenile court, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges asked the McHughs to record the stories of judges, probation officers, district attorneys, and others who work with troubled youth. In 2000, the Raven Radio Theater won the Golden Reel Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for best local public affairs documentary. Joe and Paula have produced additional radio documentaries including one on the plight of foster youth for the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association. The McHughs have four children and live in Olympia, Washington, where Joe spends his free time editing audio interviews and writing and Paula paints. Her newest series of paintings is inspired by the titles of American and Celtic fiddle tunes and folk songs. Joe has written a novel titled a techno-thriller about the perils of energy capitalism and the nature of time. Other recent books include Slaying the Gorgon, the Rise of the Storytelling Industrial Complex, The Phantom Fiddler and Other Notable Tales, a collection of original short stories drawn from the rich and varied folklore of the violin, and Coins in the Ashes, a Family Story of Grief, Gratitude, and Grace that chronicles his twelve-year search for the family of an African-American woman named Helen who cared for him when he was a child and who help his family survive a great tragedy.