Posts Tagged With: board diversity

My Journey Through a Storytelling Apprenticeship

Thanks to a Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant from the Kentucky Arts Council, I started on a journey in July that has taken me to worlds I had never before visited. It’s a journey through storytelling. Although I’ve just traveled a short way down the first trail, I’m amazed at what I’ve learned. I’m enjoying this expedition with my friend and guide, Appalachian storyteller Pam Holcomb. She has shown me the way to places I never would have visited on my own. Worlds of fables, imagination and creativity are all ready to come into your life if you open your mind. With Pam’s guidance, I have learned that anything is possible through stories. Teaching youth the truth about difficult topics, talking to an audience about complicated issues, or getting the attention of those you never thought would listen to you; they’re all possible through storytelling.

IMG_9631

Pam Holcomb and Gwenda Adkins during their apprenticeship site visit

A spur off our main trail has taken me into an unlit land I never realized was so amazing and misunderstood. Sometimes dark places appear evil and forbidden, but if you conquer your fears and enter the passage, there may be a bright spot waiting for someone to find it. This life event has opened my eyes and my world to a condition that approximately 10,000 babies born in the United States each year will develop. Its name is cerebral palsy (CP), a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking.

Why did Pam lead me to CP? It wasn’t just the condition that took us to this place, it was the person. She was born in January 1972 and weighed just a bit more than two pounds. She tried to come before Christmas, but the doctors talked her into waiting a bit. Even so, she was born two months early. She, like Pam, is a native of Harlan County Kentucky. Her name is Kristy “Bee” Barrett, one of Pam’s very dear high school students.

Kristy’s mom felt her daughter’s growth and development wasn’t on time with other babies. The doctors kept saying, “Its because she was a preemie. She just has to catch up.” Kristy didn’t catch up; she was diagnosed with CP at 18 months old. She and her family also began an amazing life journey. Although she didn’t “catch up” with age developmental expectations, Kristy has flown past most people her age when it comes to lifelong achievements.

Kristy is now 41 years old. She and Pam are very close friends. Kristy refers to her CP as her gift from God. She says,”I am the way He wanted me to be.”

Pam tells a story titled “Three Steps.” Through emotional words and expressions, Pam explains how excited Kristy was when she took three steps without the assistance of a walker, wheelchair or other device. She couldn’t wait to tell Pam and all her other friends at school. Just three steps, that’s all she has ever taken. But the races she has won are countless. Those races—along with Kristy’s attitude toward life, people and her gift—encouraged Pam to ask me to join her in telling Kristy’s story as the culminating project for my storytelling apprenticeship.

So this unknown land called cerebral palsy is more than something to pass through. Its a place to pause and reflect, a place to learn and share, a place to listen and grow. I have learned about CP, but my short time with Kristy really taught me about life and how to live it to the fullest. From her, I learned you have to conquer your fears and take chances. Kristy has done both. She can show the world that a person is not defined by a condition, the person defines the condition. Kristy has chosen “Bee Still, Embrace My Gift” as the title for her life story.

I have written four short stories about Kristy and have a couple of others in my mind. I fear there are way too many great things to tell than 90 minutes will allow. What I hope is that Pam and I can wrap our arms around Kristy’s many accomplishments and relay them to the public as an inspirational production that makes her proud and celebrates her life and her gift.

The CP spur is only one pause in my journey, it certainly didn’t stop it. On February 23, I joined my mentor and other Kentucky storytellers for a program in Harlan, Ky. Harlan County extension agents Jeremy and Theresa understand the importance of storytelling, so they host events for the public and invite storytellers to participate. I helped with the Storytelling in the Mountains” spring event and also told a story for the first time to a public audience. Learning by doing is wonderful, but learning by watching Kentucky’s great storytellers perform…priceless.

Only half of my storytelling apprenticeship journey remains. Where will it take me…I dare not imagine because my guide is creative and doesn’t mind to enter untamed territory. Perhaps you and I will bump into each other on the trail. Thank you, Kentucky Arts Council, for the opportunity to blaze a new life trail.

Gwenda Huff -Johnson, storyteller

Learn more about he rjourney on her  blog “Gwenda’s Storytelling Trail”

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts, Literary Arts | Tags: , , , , ,

From the archive: Feed your board Indian Food

We  just finished panel season here at the arts council. It’s a grueling month-long process wherein applications to our grants and programs are reviewed by panels composed of arts experts from around the country. The well-designed process is worth the effort to ensure that all applicants receive fair and extensive consideration. Today we were able to relax and eat Indian food for lunch over at the Mero Street Cafe, and it reminded me of this post from Aug. 10, 2011. For those of you that came to the Tiers 1 through 4 Kentucky Arts Partnership grant panel review, you’ll know that board diversity is definitely still on the menu in FY2013! 

What do you think of when you envision cafeteria food in a state government facility? Meat loaf? Carrot coins? Jell-O? I bet it isn’t chicken tikka masala or vegetable korma, but that’s what Kentucky workers get treated to every Wednesday* at the Mero Street Café (located in the Kentucky Department of Transportation building). The story of how this came to be is interesting and holds an important lesson for arts organizations.

Food Operations Manager Mike Vaughn considers Indian food a personal favorite—the ultimate comfort food. It’s something he has wanted to offer for a while and even slipped it in as a Friday chef’s special a few times. Mike also noticed that many Indian state government workers would come to the Mero Street dining room to eat but would bring their own lunch. Rather than letting possible, regular customers slip through his fingers he made up a menu and approached some Indian workers to approve the selections. On Wednesday, July 20, 2011, the Mero Street Café offered an Indian food bar for the first time. It was a success. One diner even sent her recipe for biryani to add to the menu. Word spread. By the following Wednesday, there was a line out the door composed of people who have eaten Indian food from the time they were born to people trying it for the first time and everything in between. State workers were actually flocking from agencies and buildings located in other parts of town.

When has variety ever been a problem?

Our’s comes in segmented Styrofoam boxes, but you get the idea.

Mike is proud of the selection offered by the Mero Street Café, and he would like to offer some new cuisines in the future, including Thai and Chinese. An urge to try something different paired with a desire to serve a neglected, potential-consumer base led to a packed house. So what does this have to do with the arts? The answer is, everything.

Audience development is a daunting buzz term for arts administrators. It’s something you hear, it’s something you want to do, but how to do it is a little scary. In order to grow your patronage, you may risk alienating your die-hard supporters. But here are the lessons we can take from Mike’s risk: 1) People have an image of the type of programs you offer on your “buffet,” whether their image is based in truth or not. 2) In order to grow your patronage and dispel some falsehoods, you must diversify your target audiences. 3) To get those target audiences into your space, you need to be relevant to them. 4) To be relevant to them you have to give them a voice in your decision-making.

You should look around your community and identify the people who are not taking advantage of your arts programming. Then you need to ask them why and what to do about it while they are in an empowered position to propose some answers. The best place to start is by offering representation on your advisory board and/or board of directors. People want to see themselves in the arts programming they view, hear or participate in, and luckily there are just as many people who want to try something new. If you don’t believe me, come to Frankfort on a Wednesday to have lunch with us.

* Nowadays the Indian food bar isn’t every Wednesday, but on the Wednesdays when it is available the house is packed. 

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Arts Organizations | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Feed your board Indian food

What do you think of when you envision cafeteria food in a state government facility? Meat loaf? Carrot coins? Jell-O? I bet it isn’t chicken tikka masala or vegetable korma, but that’s what Kentucky workers get treated to every Wednesday at the Mero Street Café (located in the Kentucky Department of Transportation building). The story of how this came to be is interesting and holds an important lesson for arts organizations.

Food Operations Manager Mike Vaughn considers Indian food a personal favorite—the ultimate comfort food. It’s something he has wanted to offer for a while and even slipped it in as a Friday chef’s special a few times. Mike also noticed that many Indian state government workers would come to the Mero Street dining room to eat but would bring their own lunch. Rather than letting possible, regular customers slip through his fingers he made up a menu and approached some Indian workers to approve the selections. On Wednesday, July 20, 2011, the Mero Street Café offered an Indian food bar for the first time. It was a success. One diner even sent her recipe for biryani to add to the menu. Word spread. By the following Wednesday, there was a line out the door composed of people who have eaten Indian food from the time they were born to people trying it for the first time and everything in between. State workers were actually flocking from agencies and buildings located in other parts of town.

When has variety ever been a problem?

Mike is proud of the selection offered by the Mero Street Café, and he would like to offer some new cuisines in the future, including Thai and Chinese. An urge to try something different paired with a desire to serve a neglected, potential-consumer base led to a packed house. So what does this have to do with the arts? The answer is, everything.

Audience development is a daunting buzz term for arts administrators. It’s something you hear, it’s something you want to do, but how to do it is a little scary. In order to grow your patronage, you may risk alienating your die-hard supporters. But here are the lessons we can take from Mike’s risk: 1) People have an image of the type of programs you offer on your “buffet,” whether their image is based in truth or not. 2) In order to grow your patronage and dispel some falsehoods, you must diversify your target audiences. 3) To get those target audiences into your space, you need to be relevant to them. 4) To be relevant to them you have to give them a voice in your decision-making.

You should look around your community and identify the people who are not taking advantage of your arts programming. Then you need to ask them why and what to do about it while they are in an empowered position to propose some answers. The best place to start is by offering representation on your advisory board and/or board of directors. People want to see themselves in the arts programming they view, hear or participate in, and luckily there are just as many people who want to try something new. If you don’t believe me, come to Frankfort on a Wednesday to have lunch with us.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Arts Organizations | Tags: ,

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: