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

Photo Credit: Johanna Austin

First Person Arts includes storytellers practicing across multiple disciplines such as theatre, memoir, visual, arts, spoken word, and dance. In documentary art, the message is more important than the messenger.

We promise, with each story you tell and/or hear, the more connected you will feel. The act of making oneself vulnerable through storytelling breaks down barriers. Our unique and shared experiences will bring our communities closer together. You are not alone.


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 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.


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.

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

Artistic Statement from Jamie J.

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


First Person Arts 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, First Person Arts 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.


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


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 First Person Arts 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 an 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 First Person Arts involves innovation, risk-taking and relevance.


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


First Person Arts 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.


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


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.) First Person Arts seeks to capture and retain the compelling narratives that reflect the collective memory and pressing issues of our time that must be told now.