I don’t think of myself as a storyteller. Or at least I didn’t until last week’s presentation with Thaler Pekar, a storytelling expert from New Jersey, at the North Dakota Council on the Arts Statewide Convening in Bismarck. Gathered in an auditorium, Thaler had all the conference attendees split off into groups and tell a story about our organizations or about a time the arts were critical in our lives. The first time we did this my story was admittedly rocky; I had more “ums,” “likes,” and long pauses than I care to admit. Then Thaler gave us some strategies: name your characters, provide sensory details, know your ending line from the beginning, and set your story in time and place. The second time around, I told my story with confidence.
I’m a data lover. Give me a dataset and a couple hours to play with it and I’ll be a happy camper. But this session reiterated that data for data’s sake often isn’t enough and is most meaningful when paired with a story. It reframed the way I look at data and strengthened my ability to use it to support the arts.
The ND Council on the Arts Convening had multiple other sessions that provided valuable information. One was about accessibility led by Sherry Shirek, which showed that accessibility is imperative and gave strategies to make the arts more easily accessible to all. Another was led by former state senator Carolyn Nelson, which showed how to effectively contact our elected officials.
The final session was on advocacy led by Kelly Barsdate, who educated us on what advocacy really is and gave us valuable strategies and data to use to better advocate for the arts.
Overall, the ND Council on the Arts Statewide Convening gave me a strengthened sense of interconnectedness in the arts community. We are more than the sum of our parts, and when we work together, tell each other’s stories, and are advocates for each other, truly wonderful things can result from it.