Executive director of CD Forum in Seattle got her start in the arts at church, where as a kid she was in plays and choir and gave speeches. "The speeches and the plays stuck," she says.

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Sharon Nyree Williams

What do you do? As an arts administrator, I’m the executive director for the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas (CD Forum). I get to present and produce programs that are rooted in the black cultural experience. I’m also a storyteller in various genres. One day you may see me on stage reciting my poetry and stories; the next day, I may be working on a solo performance, or a film, etc.

How did you get started in the arts? Honestly, it started in church. As a kid it was a requirement that I participate in plays, the choir and give speeches. There were also a few years where I played the piano for Sunday school. The speeches and the plays stuck. I believe my family just wanted me to be active in the church community. I don’t think they ever thought that it would lead to a career in the arts.

What’s a typical day like? This is a hard question for me because it depends on the day. As an arts administrator, I go to the office to check email, put out fires if there are any, and complete administrative paperwork. I’ll attend a meeting or two or three, with artists, [benefactors] or one of the community committees I’m on.

As a storyteller, I’m looking for opportunities to share my stories, preparing for a performance, thinking of new strategies/goals and anything dealing with establishing my brand.

What surprises people about what you do? I don’t wear my credentials on my chest, so if they know me as an arts administrator, they are surprised to find out that I’m a storyteller. If they’ve seen me perform, they are surprised to learn that I’m an arts administrator. What they don’t know is that it surprises me, too. I’m just trying to live the dream and I hope everyone else is too.

What’s the best part of your work? What makes me happy is helping artists bring their visions to life. Watching my interns grow and develop right in front of my eyes. Collaborating with various community stakeholders in the name of changing the narrative about black culture. The very best part is when it means as much to a person to hear my stories as it does for me to tell them.

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