National Storytelling Network headquarters moving to Missouri
By Lynn J. Richardson
The Jonesborough-based National Storytelling Network announced on Nov. 22 that it is relocating its national headquarters to Kansas City, Mo.
According to an article in the Kansas City Star, the Kansas City location was chosen from a list of possible new homes that included the cities of Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Alton Chung, president of the NSN Board of Directors, told the Herald & Tribune that the decision to move the headquarters wasn’t sudden nor would it be immediate.
“This decision has been cooking for several years, five years now,” Chung said.
“Since 2008, we have been wanting to go and be part of a more open setting, to be more centrally located and near a larger airport.”
There are no plans to immediately change anything at the Jonesborough site, he added, saying that the NSN would operate in both places for the time being.
Chung also said there are “no real plans” to make any personnel changes at this time.
The NSN’s local headquarters is currently staffed by two full-time employees, including the NSN’s director of operations, Karen Hensley, and office manager Kit Rogers.
Elaine Kolp, a part-time employee serves as the organization’s bookkeeper.
Rogers answered a call from the Herald & Tribune on Monday morning, but declined to make a formal statement, saying she wasn’t the right person to comment.
However, when asked about future job loss as a result of the headquarters move, Rogers would only say, “This isn’t a matter of losing our jobs. If we wanted to move we could, but we all have families here.”
Whenever those staffing decisions are finalized, the leadership of the NSN will make their temporary home in Kansas City at the new Woodneath Library Center which opened this summer in the Shoal Creek district of Kansas City.
The organization’s staff will later move into the Woodneath Story Center in a soon-to-be renovated home built in 1856, adjacent to the new library.
According to a press release about the decision that was issued by Chung, the move from Jonesborough to Kansas City “provides the NSN with a new home with a vital arts community and rich outreach opportunities.”
“This library has the largest oral history and genealogy collection in the country,” Chung said of Woodneath Library Center. “You tell stories for people that won’t or can’t tell their own and help people to share their stories. The support of the local Kansas City government as well as the support of the larger community was a large reason why we chose to come here.”
According to Mid-Continent Public Library chief executive officer, Steve Potter, library officials plan to launch a $4 million fundraising campaign to finance the renovations and NSN programs and officially open the center in 2015.
The headquarters’ impending move appears to be the final chapter in the story of a rocky relationship with the town’s other storytelling entity – the International Storytelling Center.
Having the two organizations separated geographically is something Chung says is for the best.
“I think certainly that the move was part of the whole overall plan of what is going on with NSN,” he said. “It is important to be able to distinguish between the two organizations.”
The NSN was created in 1998, when it split from the ISC. While the ISC developed and continues to produce the International Storytelling Festival, the NSN produces the National Storytelling Conference and other events as well as presenting storytelling’s annual Oracle Awards and Tellabration.
Both the ISC and NSN got their start in Jonesborough following the first National Storytelling Festival in 1973. Shortly following that festival, the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling (NAPPS) was created, later changing its name to the National Storytelling Association (NSA) in 1994.
However, ISC Founder and former president Jimmy Neil Smith said a disagreement over the future of NSA led to the parting of ways. That led the ISC to assume the corporate charter and NSA later became NSN.
Several years later, in December 2010, the ISC found itself in financial trouble and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The NSN filed a $5.7 million claim – for breach of contract. NSN had continued to annually receive 18 percent of gross revenues from the festival since the split, in accordance with one of the contracts and Smith said total payments to NSN of $1.9 million contributed to the financial crisis that required the ISC to file for bankruptcy.
In one of its first steps toward recovery, ISC dissolved its relationship with NSN when United State Bankruptcy Judge Marcia Parsons approved ISC’s motion to reject the three contracts between the organizations. NSN had filed an objection to the motion, but withdrew it the day before the April 26, 2011 hearing.
The day after Parsons’ ruling severed the ties between the organizations, NSN filed a multi-million dollar claim for breach of contract.
Two of the agreements between NSN and ISC were formed in 1998 when they split from the entity operating as the National Storytelling Association. The third was the result of a mediation settlement during 2004. Dessauer filed ISC’s opposition to the claim on Nov. 9, 2011 and it was disallowed in its entirety in December 2011 by Parsons. As a result, NSN was limited to the scheduled amount of $173,188 as one of ISC’s creditors.