Center for Transformative Action

Creating Community Connections through Storytelling

Story House Ithaca, co-directed by Jonathan Miller and Lesley Greene, serves as a hub for fostering connections and understanding across the Ithaca community through multifaceted storytelling. “We believe that communities are stronger when people get to know each other better,” says Jon. “Stories are perfect vehicles for making that happen.”

But what is a story? Jon has extensive experience as a journalist, and Lesley comes from a long career in theater and event production. Their backgrounds are different but their combined experience makes the organization successful. This push-pull of fiction and non-fiction, documentary and performance, helps them maintain an expansive definition.

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Storytelling can be anything and everything... what's really behind it all is the desire to bring people together who wouldn't otherwise come together.

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Recognizing the need for inclusivity and understanding within the Ithaca community, Story House Ithaca initiated various programs to unite diverse groups through storytelling. Notably, a recent traveling exhibition featured incarcerated individuals’ art and writing and toured several libraries across the Finger Lakes region, reaching communities in Ithaca, Auburn, Owego, Cortland, and Seneca Falls. This exhibit brought incarcerated individuals’ powerful narratives to the public eye, challenging perceptions and humanizing their experiences.

A recent intergenerational playwriting class facilitated strong bonds between senior citizens and high school students, breaking stereotypes and fostering deep connections. Participants transcended generational barriers, sharing personal stories and gaining newfound understanding and empathy.

The organization’s initiatives extend beyond artistic storytelling, including non-fiction events such as presentation nights, documentary screenings, and ‘listening salons’, demonstrating the value of many different forms of storytelling in understanding the world.

Support from the Center for Transformative Action has allowed Story House Ithaca to concentrate on community engagement and programming by managing administrative tasks and alleviating organizational burdens.

“We’re here because we’re passionate about what we’re doing in the community. We want to make things happen,” says Jon. “Working with CTA lets us focus on programming without getting too bogged down in administrative tasks. It has been a wonderful partnership.”

CTA’s support has come in various forms. During the organizations’ formation, CTA helped them to define who they were, establish a clear budget, and build an advisory board. CTA also runs the organization’s payroll, manages credit cards, facilitates the annual budgeting process, and provides critical access to non-profit discounts on software and resources necessary to run the organization.

Story House Ithaca will continue to expand its offerings with community support and key partnerships. One of their goals for 2024 is to find a physical space for events and informal interaction – putting the “House” in “Story House.”

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