ISC Launches Storytelling Toolkit
Meet Melani Douglass
A Quintessential Southern Wedding
A Story in Progress
The History of ISC
The world’s storytelling renaissance began in Jonesborough, a tiny town in the mountains of Tennessee over 40 years ago.
On a warm October day in 1973, the town of Jonesborough played host to the first National Storytelling Festival. The Festival was small, but something happened that October weekend that has changed forever our culture, this traditional art form, and this Tennessee town.
Now in its 43rd year, the National Storytelling Festival was created by Jimmy Neil Smith, a former journalism teacher and mayor of Jonesborough. His inspiration, quite simply, was a well-told tale heard over a car radio—a story told by Grand Ole Opry star Jerry Clower about hunting in Mississippi. Why not a storytelling festival? Smith wondered.
The first National Storytelling Festival, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, ignited a renaissance of storytelling that is, even today, far-reaching. People across America and the world are rediscovering the simplicity and basic truth of a well-told story.
Ancient storytelling traditions are being recognized and reborn. Storytelling organizations, festivals, and educational events now dot the globe, and the professional storyteller, a fixture in more primitive times and cultures, has reappeared.
The autumn festival, held under colorful circus tents scattered throughout Jonesborough, now attracts more than 10,000 visitors, and this first-of-its-kind event has become the flagship of the international revival of storytelling. Jonesborough, the Festival’s home, is recognized worldwide as the revival’s birthplace.
Two years after the first festival, the National Storytelling Association was founded to spearhead America’s storytelling renaissance. For almost a quarter of a century, NSA served as the connecting point for this storytelling revival—the momentum behind this ever-widening movement.
Today, NSA—now known as the International Storytelling Center—promotes the power of storytelling and the creative applications of this ancient tradition to enrich the human experience in the home, at the workplace, and throughout the world.
Just as the first National Storytelling Festival gave birth over 40 years ago to a quiet revolution felt across the globe, we expect that over the next 30 years and beyond the work of the International Storytelling Center will help transform our world—making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and families, corporations and institutions, and communities and cultures everywhere.
The International Storytelling Center is dedicated to enriching the lives of people around the world through the arts of storytelling.
It is our organization’s goal to inspire and empower people everywhere to capture and tell their stories, listen to the stories of others, and use storytelling to produce positive change. We believe that through the arts of storytelling, we can build a better world—healthier communities, more effective workplaces, and more excellent schools—and enrich lives.
We live in a complex agean era of social, economic, and civic challenges. Although concerned and dedicated individuals, organizations, and government agencies are addressing these challenges, the issues remain daunting.
So, how can the International Storytelling Center help?
How can we imagineand bring into realitya new horizon, a new tomorrow?
Storytelling can’t directly feed the hungry, house the homeless, or cure the sick. Yet, we all have the capacity to tap into our stories, our narrative assets, and communicate more effectively.
A well-told story can communicate truth, concept, or idea with immeasurable power. ISC is dedicated to connecting this powerful tool with the voices of individuals, organizations, and communities across the world to help them achieve their goals.
Our vision is a better life, a better world, through the power of storytelling.
To achieve this worthy vision, ISC is advancing the power and possibilities of storytelling and providing people across the world with the knowledge, experiences, and tools to effectively tap into the contemporary applications of this longstanding tradition.
We are inspiring and empowering people worldwide to discover, craft, and share stories that:
- Enliven and enrich performanceas teller and listener
- Celebrate personal, community, and cultural heritage through the preservation of stories and story traditions
- Enhance community services, health and wellness, and education through the professional practice of storytelling.
During the coming months and years, ISC will expand program offerings to provide the knowledge, experiences, and tools of storytelling to help people around the world tap into the power of this ancient tradition, pursue passions, and realize potentialin the lives of individuals, in communities, and cultures.
The International Storytelling Center is dedicated to inspiring and empowering people across the world to tell their stories, renew their storytelling traditions, and tap into the power of storytelling to build a better life and a better world.
- We believe in integrity, open-mindedness, transparency and acting responsibly
- We respect all visitors, storytellers, supporters and our international communities as equally as we respect ourselves.
- We are committed to excellence in everything we do.
ISC is pursuing three program strategies to achieve the new vision:
Through a global advocacy campaign, ISC is:
- Promoting the possibilities of storytelling
- Creating awareness of and appreciation for storytelling
- Building credibility for this longstanding tradition
- Expanding storytelling audiences
As a result of these grassroots efforts, more and more individuals, organizations, and communities across the globe are discovering, crafting, and sharing their stories.
Through a global learning program, ISC will provide a series of innovative, educational opportunities to teach the power of storytelling. Through this program, ISC introduces the power of storytelling, serves as a connecting point for a community of learners, and provides a resource for learning the creative applications of storytelling.
The learning program will include online courses, subscriptions to educational services, and a series of symposia and mini-conferences under the banner of the Horizon Global Forumall fueled by research, study groups, and pilot projects.
A worldwide beacon and a center of excellence for storytelling, ISC’s campus is located in Jonesboroughthe small Tennessee town that gave birth to the world’s storytelling renaissance. Known affectionately as the storytelling capital of the world, Jonesborough and our campus are providing expanded, on-site opportunities to experience the power and potential of storytelling.
Jonesborough-based activities now include the National Storytelling Festival and Storytelling Live!, ISC’s teller-in-residence program. In the future, a series of visitor experiences showcasing storytelling will also be added to ISC’s Center offerings for visitors.
A Story In Progress
As our changing world constantly presents new ways to craft and share stories, as an organization, we’re excited by these possibilities. The mission of the International Storytelling Center has always been to enrich lives through story, through arts and the oral tradition of storytelling. Our new vision, A Story In Progress was born of a strategic planning session with our board, but it’s been more than 40 years in the making.
It’s time to expand our programmatic reach, as we focus on our seven key strategic steps to Innovate, Engage, Grow, Connect, Educate, Communicate, and Earn. We invite you to join us as we build a better world through the power of storytelling.
Telling Stories for Peace
Announcing the 2015 Teller-in-Residence Lineup
I Needed to Unplug to Recharge
Our Year in Review
Holiday News at the International Storytelling Center
National Storytelling Festival: My Story
Introducing Anita Norman
International Storytelling Center receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant
Expanding the Circle
A First Timer’s Trip
Tim Lowry in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Stamp of Approval
Google Cultural Institue
The International Storytelling Center (ISC) has launched a digital partnership with Google’s Cultural Institute, a free online exhibition that explores the stories behind history’s most important historic and cultural moments. The exhibit focuses on the 42 year cultural impact of ISC’s signature event, the National Storytelling Festival, which is the largest and most prestigious storytelling event in the world.
United Nations and MasterPeace - A Storytelling Competition for Peace
The International Storytelling Center joined with MasterPeace, a grass-roots peace movement based in the Netherlands, to launch a global storytelling competition, offering all storytellers around the world a platform to share their personal experience about what inspired them to work for peace. The winning story was presented at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2014, the International Day of Peace. “The power of storytelling is unquestionable. By listening and telling our stories we can unite as one creative global human family and then together contribute to building a better world. We are delighted to have partnered with the international award-winning MasterPeace organization on this exciting project to celebrate UN International day of Peace.” Kiran Singh Sirah.
Alliance for Peace Building
The National Storytelling Festival is the International Storytelling Center’s signature program, but ISC is also active on the global stage, fulfilling it’s mission to enrich the lives of people around the world through the arts of storytelling. The center’s goal is to inspire and empower people everywhere to capture and tell their stories, listen to the stories of others, and use storytelling to produce positive change. As a partner with the Washington, D.C. organization, Alliance for Peacebuilding, the International Storytelling Center reinforces the importance of sharing stories to build peace among peoples and nations. ISC is active in numerous projects with AfP to promote storytelling and peacebuilding here and across the world.
Desmund Tutu Peace Foundation - USA
The storytellers performing in ISC’s 2014 programming are being featured as part of the Desmund Tutu Peace Foundation - USA website and social media pages. The site will also feature the National Storytelling Festival, which will reach its followers and readers worldwide and provide greater exposure to ISC’s website.