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    Sharing in the Story District Board Experience

    May 17th, 2017 By JR Russ

    Sharing in the Story District Board Experience

    Story District's board is expanding. For more information, please attend an in-person event (information below) or contact JR Russ or Kate Morton

    • 6:30-7:30pm in advance of Seduce Me: Stories about persuasion and temptation at Town Danceboutique on Tuesday, June 13th MORE INFO
    • 6:30-7:30pm at The Midlands (next to Story District HQ) on Thursday, June 22nd MORE INFO
    • 6:30-7:30pm in advance of My Country Tis of Thee: Stories about being an American at Town Danceboutique on Tuesday, July 11th MORE INFO

    JR RUSS

    In July 2009, I met John Kevin Boggs at the Capital Fringe Festival. Two years ago I blogged about this and how my love for and involvement with Story District took of. I participated as a storyteller several times, including in our very first Pride Show, and became enamoured of the community I found myself surrounded with. One person in particular was then board member Jeffrey Blender who, as he termed off of Story District’s board, wanted to pass the baton on to me.

    I said yes. I had never been on the board of a nonprofit organization before, much less an arts one. But I had studied about it. One requirement for the Master's program in Arts Management at American University was a semester taking Governance and Board Development. And it was pretty exciting to have an opportunity to put those theories and that learning to practice. But by know means was this a prerequisite to being a part of the board. Just as I brought this lens to the table, every board member brought their own knowledge, experience, and expertise, whether it had to do with legal matters, financial ones, or any of the various skills buckets needed to provide our staff assistance and guidance in keeping our storytelling machine running.

    Five years later, I am towards the end of my third and final term on the board of Story District, and what a time it’s been. The years have been exciting ones where the board has helped turn challenges into opportunities, two of the most significant of which have been transitioning from SpeakeasyDC to Story District as well as finding ourselves in a new home on Georgia Avenue, in the Park View neighborhood. Another which hasn’t been as visible, has been seeing the board itself grow and mature, both in number of board members as well as the ways in which we strategically provide support to our staff.

    And as much as I appreciate what I’ve been able to bring to the table from my own experience, serving on the board has also been a great way to learn and develop new skills. There are times when some of the best work we’ve done hasn’t been from knowing the answers, but being able to ask the right questions, and making space to figure out how to collectively move forward. One question that has been particularly exciting for me has been related to our space on Park View. As an organization that prides itself on building community through storytelling, how do we do that as the new kid on the block?

    So, if you love the work Story District does, you should consider being on the board. If you have time and skills to give and help be a steward for storytelling in the District, you should consider being on the board. If you’ve seen a show, taken a class, or told on stage, and  want another way to support our mission, you should consider being on the board. For me, this has been a most fulfilling way to have a local impact in this city I love and call home. - JR Russ

    Kate Morton

    In December 2012, I was invited to a holiday dinner party at Moishe House by a friend from high school with whom I had only recently reconnected upon moving to DC six months prior. It was a diverse crowd with many meeting only for the first time that night. With holiday cheer in the air, we gathered around a beautifully mixed and matched potluck meal with copious amounts of wine; the hours flew by. As some filtered out - onto the next holiday party of the night - the rest of us dug into a late night of conversation and games.

    And by games, I mean storytelling. A new friend from the night, Arielle, suggested that the group go around and take turns telling stories. Nothing formal or scripted, just the first story that came to mind. I learned about Arielle’s introduction to beekeeping through a former coworker. I shared the tale of rekindling a romance with my first kiss from 6th grade while in my freshman year at Stanford University. And the stories kept coming as partygoers got more comfortable with the “game.” Some were truly funny, others more introspective. The night waned, and the group parted ways full of good food and festive spirit.

    It was only in the weeks following that I fully realized what Arielle had done. In proposing this game of storytelling to a mixed crowd of strangers and long-time friends, she created a space for people to listen and be heard, to connect with others and learn about fellow human experiences. Whether she intended to or not, Arielle fostered a truer sense of community in that moment than I had experienced to date in DC. Little did I know, this new friend of mine was soon to introduce me to an even broader and deeper community that would stay with me for years to come.

    On one of our first friend dates, Arielle brought me to a show produced by what was then called SpeakeasyDC. Today, you know this organization as Story District. It was an iteration of our monthly series at Town, and it was clear where Arielle got her inspiration for the holiday party game. Arielle later was invited to join the Board of Directors of Story District, and she continued to bring me to shows as her guest month after month.

    In the next couple of years, Story District rebranded and grew its budget, programming, and a new business consulting arm. Accordingly, the Board also refined its structure and grew its capacity to help guide and govern the organization. This involved inviting new members to join the Board in 2016 - including myself. I joined the Board hungry to help Story District build community in a time of growth. As it turns out, this endeavor would (and will continue to) take so many different, exciting forms, from becoming ingrained in the Park View neighborhood surrounding our very first storefront on Georgia Ave; to reaching new audiences across DC; to stewarding the well-being and longevity of the Board itself.

    I saw joining the Story District Board as a unique opportunity to support an organization that had been a part of my life for years. What I didn’t realize was that I would find community within the Board itself. We are a team of artists, lawyers, businesspeople, community organizers, techies, and more. We come together to tackle important questions about and projects involving finance, fundraising, strategic planning, community building, and client services. In the last six months, I have, again, forged new friendships thanks to Story District.

    Additionally, my involvement in the Story District Board has quickly proven itself to be a remarkable opportunity for professional and personal growth. I am challenged to translate my career experience to a new venue, to adapt skills to reach new audiences, to take ownership of special projects, and more. In working closely with my fellow Board members, I have had the chance to learn from diverse perspectives and experience, informing not only my Board action but my own career and participation in other DC communities.

    I have found the Board to be a space similar to the one that Story District performances create for audience members through storytelling: a place to connect with others, examine our own lives, and synthesize experiences. At the end of the day, I believe that community is what best describes and defines Story District. If this is something you seek or something you want to help build, I encourage you to explore Story District’s Board of Directors. Six months into my Board tenure, I feel fulfilled and excited for the years to come. Join me in supporting Story District.- Kate Morton

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