Conference Center

Unity Found in the Arts

Turning Outward 

The Arts Team is bringing people from different arts organizations together to think, work, and lead differently to fulfill a shared aspiration: build a better Alamance. The team’s leaders, Cheryl Wilder and Tami Kress, say they have internalized the Harwood Approach, especially the Turn Outward and North Star Key Mantras, which has led to more than five community conversations and the intention to act on the public knowledge gathered in those conversations. Kress and Wilder’s work in the arts communities have prompted them to internalize the Harwood Approach and public knowledge they have gained thus far.  

Wilder, the president of the Burlington Writers’ Club, attended the Getting Started Lab midway through her term as the club’s president. She had been looking for ways to breathe new life into the organization, which has been active since 1956, but in recent years, has dwindled to a small but impressive group of writers. 

“I was already trying to grow the community,” said Wilder. “By the time of the lab, I was already looking outward, and then Harwood took everything I was doing and reassured me. I was searching for community partners, and the lab put me in a room full of business, nonprofit, religious and community leaders.” 

Tami Kress, the executive director of Studio 1, was also searching for an innovative approach and model for the performing arts group to adopt. 

Kress started Studio 1 15 years ago when she saw a need for theater in Alamance. The organization has grown to become an integral part of the community, producing several shows each year. “We believe in fostering a positive atmosphere and empowering people to be the best they can be,” said Kress. 

When Kress attended the Getting Started Lab and began looking into the work, she thought, “Oh, my gosh! That’s the tool I can use to bring everyone together.” Kress sees the mantras and Harwood Approach as an outline for building community within Studio 1 and across Alamance County. The Key Mantras gave her permission to “start small.” Kress said she is a “big picture thinker” and gets overwhelmed when figuring out where to start to carry out her hopes and plans. The mantra “start small to go big” helped her realize that she does not have to tackle every challenge at once. She has been empowered by starting small with the hope of “going big.” 

“It struck home for me,” said Kress “I’ve always believed that the arts community can be a part of changing the trajectory for our community.” 

Kress and Wilder, brought their organizations together to work on one of Studio 1’s main stage productions. Some of the writers from the Burlington Writers Club assisted Studio 1 performers in creating monologues. Kress approached Wilder after the Getting Started Lab to form a partnership between the two organizations. Young performers at Studio 1 created their own monologues. Writers came to help mold and edit the scripts. The performers will be showcasing the collaborative monologues in May during Studio 1’s main stage production of Theatre NOW. 

The partnership started with Kress and Wilder turning outward to one another, getting in motion, and starting small to go big. 

Wilder said that it was not a big discussion or plan but started by the two saying to each other “hey, let’s try and see how this goes.” 

Studio 1 and The Burlington Writer’s Club are currently exploring ways to continue working with each other to deepen the community and create a chain reaction within the arts community. 

Kress said that by Turning Outward she is now thinking of ways to include groups like the Burlington Writers Club in the work they do within the arts community. Wilder said the initiative and arts team inspired her to say “yes” to opportunities and collaboration like working with Studio 1. The two are excited and open to collaborating with each other and others.  

“The people [on the arts team] share a similar vision for the role the arts can play in the community,” said Wilder. “Being around so many arts people with a similar vision has been a great thing.” 

People on the team, like Kress and Wilder, believe that the arts in Alamance County can be a vessel for bringing the community together. The team has united over a shared goal of using the arts to create a better Alamance. This unity within the team has given them momentum to reach outward within and across their organizations. 

“The shared goal has created unity within the arts community,” said Wilder. 

The arts team has made great strides in connecting with each other. They are forming relationships across their time and expanding their circles. They hope to expand their network and bring more people into the fold. The organizations themselves have Turned Outward; their next goal is to Turn Outward to the Alamance County community. They hope to model the connectedness they have found within the arts community by bringing together different communities across the county. The team hopes that the arts can help address areas of concern in the community and to then launch a chain reaction that will create new trajectories of hope in Alamance County.