True, personal stories are the raw materials of our practice.

First Person Arts includes storytellers practicing across multiple disciplines such as theatrememoir visual arts spoken worddance
from the point of view of someone expressing or sharing events that he or she is experiencing or has experienced; and, those working to accurately depict people, places, activities and events. The latter is documentary art, and is created for what it depicts. In documentary art, the message is more important than the messenger.

Our Mission

First Person Arts’ mission is to transform the drama of real life into memoir and documentary art to foster an appreciation for our unique and shared experiences. We believe that everyone has a story to tell and that sharing our stories connects us with each other and the world.

Our Vision

Our vision is to be a platform for artists and everyday people to share the compelling personal stories they must tell now. We will listen to the issues that matter to them and lift up their voices through our programs.

Our Core Belief

Everyone has a story to tell, and sharing our stories connects us with each other and the world. Embedded in this core belief is our organizational commitment to diversity and equality as vital to our practice.

Our Programming

First Person Arts cultivates true, personal stories through our principal programs.

  • The only festival of its kind to curate memoir and documentary art across multiple genres and diverse voices. First Person Arts produces and presents stories from masters, emerging artists and everyday people during the Festival.

  • Open mic events where audiences are invited to share true, personal stories on pre-selected themes. These friendly competitions are judged by members of the audience who receive instruction on how to critique memoir. StorySlams are fun, entertaining ways to introduce audiences to memoir and documentary art forms and critique and collect raw new stories.

  • Customized storytelling activities that seek to amplify voices that too often go unheard, build affinity, stronger communities and disrupt social inequities. Plus, we install mobile audio equipment at live events, used to capture stories and feedback from event attendees.

Digital Archive

First Person Arts archives stories digitally in-house and online via our YouTube Channel as a source of content and to document our social and cultural history.

Story Sharing

First Person Arts shares annually through digital media products, including Commonspace – a monthly radio hour and podcasts on NPR-Affiliate, WHYY, The First Person Arts YouTube Channel and, The First Person Arts podcast.

About First Person Arts

We believe that everyone has a story to tell. The mission of FPA is to transform the drama of real life into memoir and documentary art to foster appreciation for our unique and shared experiences. The FPA mission statement clearly defines our practice and anticipated outcomes.

Diversity

FPA was founded in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Philadelphia is the nation’s fifth largest city with over 1.56MIL people. Its neighborhoods and visitors reflect diverse ethnicities, religions, ages, incomes and sexual orientations. In order to amplify the plethora of authentic perspectives here, FPA cultivates audiences and stories that are reflective of the diverse experiences of our region. As a result, our audiences have diversified to be within approximately 10% points of the 2017 regional census data.

Equality

At FPA, no one person’s story is more valuable than another’s. In fact, voices that go unheard are often the most potent.

Practice

Our practice is reshaping a true story into art. We do this by soliciting and collecting raw, unedited stories from artists and those who do not consider themselves to be artists. We then select from these raw, unedited stories, those ripe for further development. Selected stories/storytellers work with FPA story coaches, teaching artists & production teams using an intuitive developmental process conducted in a safe, nurturing environment. The combination of environment and expertise transforms a story into the art form most appropriate to fulfill its greatest potential. We also present masters and emerging artists in the field whose work aligns with our artistic metrics. As an arts and cultural organization and to honor the voices we amplify, it is our responsibility to strive for artistic excellence in our practice and outcomes, not mediocrity.

Seeking Artistic Excellence

Excellence is defined in our mission statement as art that, “… fosters appreciation for our unique and shared experiences” or, as Sir. Brian McMasters (former Director of the Edinburgh International Festival) said in his report Supporting Excellence in the Arts: From Measurement to Judgement, “…excellence in culture occurs when an [artistic] experience affects and changes an individual”.

Metrics for Artistic Excellence

Artistic excellence for FPA involves innovation, risk-taking and relevance.

Innovation

FPA has been at the forefront of creating new innovative models that push the boundaries of memoir and documentary art since its inception. Most recently, FPA has worked with experts to develop models that push the boundaries of storytelling, fusing storytelling with journalism and behavioral health.

Risk-Taking

FPA believes that only in a safe, nurturing environment will artists and individuals that do not consider themselves to be artists take risks to share and develop deeply personal, compelling stories. This environment is the birthplace of brave new work.

Relevance

Through programming that speaks to the pressing and important issues as we experience them collectively, FPA ensures that its programming remains relevant.

Urgency

This is a critical juncture in world history. The last generation of individuals that lived through some of the most influential events in history (i.e., the Holocaust, World War II, etc.) are fading into memory. We are also dealing with other influences on our collective well-being that are unique to this time (i.e., political, medical, etc.) FPA seeks to capture and retain the compelling narratives that reflect the collective memory and pressing issues of our time that must be told now.