At Suzanne’s suggestion, I’ll spend tomorrow morning at an AAM workshop, Storytelling: The First Big Thing with Andy Goodman, an author and advocate for nonprofits, educational and cultural institutions, or in his words “good causes.” Here’s a trailer from the session presented for another group last year:
Before the workshop, we’re to come up with 2-3 short ideas for stories about our museums’ contributions to their communities and visitors’ lives. Here are my first attempts:
I duck into a community gathering in the low-ceilinged basement of a neighborhood bar and walk right into a big hug. The arms around me belong to Pamela, liaison to a cultural tourism organization and a true delight. Before too long, I’m telling Pamela about a “love stories” project I’m working on, collecting video interviews with people who enjoyed an important first date or romantic encounter at the Phillips (its reputation as an intimate museum is based on more than cozy galleries). Pamela’s eyes nearly brim. She squeezes my arm and asks, “Have I told you about Dorothy? And our second date?”
During a summer internship, I entered the museum every morning through a staff door and stood face to face with Rolf. It was at least four years before I would discover that our office visitor receptionist and museum assistant was also a painter with a previous life as a journalist. Then he started a series on our blog–The Artist Sees Differently–where he talks with fellow artists on staff about their work and the impact of spending so much time in our galleries.
A discombobulated 12-year-old burst through the double doors and asked where she would find van Gogh’s Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles. She had a willing though less invested sister or cousin along, and the two moved quickly off in the right direction. Soon after, a father came in (leaving a group of 6 or 7 family members outside). Had we seen a young girl in a green hoodie? She seemed to care about only one thing on this family vacation to Washington, and he wanted to understand why.
In the workshop, we’ll examine whether any of these rise to the level of a story and, if one does, develop it. So looking at the kernel of an idea, how can you tell when a story’s worth telling?