Telling Stories, Weaving Change: a Conversation with Story Tapestries

Story Tapestries is a 501(c) non-profit located in Montgomery County, Maryland. Seeking to strengthen communities through the arts, they promote sustainable, integrated arts-based programs that provide an avenue for education and foster engagement with students of all ages and abilities. With a special focus on high-need communities, Story Tapestries is empowering, educating, and engaging their way to a better future.

As the organization charges headfirst into 2019, I had the honor of sitting down with Lorienne Beals, Story Tapestries’ Development Director, to briefly discuss her experiences and give us a glimpse into the past and future of ST’s programs and goals.

Lorienne Beals, Development Director

E: Hi, Lorienne, it’s so good to get this chance to sit down and talk with you. As the Development Director for Story Tapestries, you’ve got some great perspectives to offer on the the organization and its impact. To start, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from, and how did you end up working with Arianna (ST’s Founder) and Story Tapestries?

L: I grew up in Seneca Falls, NY – the birthplace of Women’s Rights. In the fall of 2010 I moved to Severn, Maryland and met Arianna. She had just finished filing the application paperwork for Story Tapestries to become a 501c3. As a professional dancer and dance educator, the work of Story Tapestries immediately resonated with me. In addition, I had worked for years with the New York Institute of Dance and Education and the Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre before making the move to the greater DC area, and I was excited to find an organization that shared many of the same principles about helping people reach their fullest potential.

E: It sounds like you were already deeply invested in the arts and their place in education. What is it about Story Tapestries that drew/draws you in? Was there a specific aspect that caught your interest at first?

L: What I love about Story Tapestries is the collaborative approach to helping others come to recognize and celebrate their own abilities. We really use the arts as the vehicle to help people connect with one another, breaking down traditional barriers and unlocking the door to learning for thousands of students. There’s nothing more rewarding than watching a student transform from being resistant, feeling isolated and angry, to realizing they not only can but want to participate and engage and share. What’s even more powerful is watching a teacher who wants nothing more than to reach and assist their students finally feel like they’ve found new ways that really work for them to get their message across. The beauty of that is the teacher will then utilize these methods in every class they teach, reaching hundreds and even thousands of children in the course of their career. And normally, they’re so excited about it that they share these concepts and techniques with their colleagues, too.

E: That’s very powerful – the impact goes way beyond one or two lessons and can have huge implications over time. These goals have a big “ripple effect,” it sounds like. There have been some truly groundbreaking programs headed by ST in the past few years, would you tell me a bit about your favorites?

L: I’m incredibly excited about the Amplify US! Initiative and the potential it has to be a catalyst for meaningful social change. We began working with partners in 2017 to meet about the issue of rising hate crimes in Montgomery County and to brainstorm about how arts programs might play a role in shifting those dynamics at the root of the problem. The task force that came together created a program design that piloted in 2018 with a series of free storytelling workshops provided for youth and adults across the county. Workshop participants were then given opportunities to share their stories in public performances at public libraries, the Strathmore Mansion, and Wheaton Arts Parade and Festival – sharing the stage with professional artists. The stories that have been told and the experiences shared have been beautiful, powerful, and heartfelt, and those who have participated thus far have acknowledged a shift in their perceptions, which is the core goal of these programs. This design is a model we are working to replicate on a larger scale in Montgomery County as well as bring to additional locations such as Prince George’s County and beyond. While our in-school, after-school, and summer programs as well as professional development workshops are impacting academic performance, we know youth are most successful when they have a strong community supporting them, including mentors, caretakers and beyond. Therefore I feel the Amplify US! Initiative helps us really take a 360-degree approach to serving today’s youth and ensuring a more colorful, fun, and unbiased tomorrow.

E: That’s amazing. Performance has a way of really bringing people out of themselves and into a more connected mode of expression, and it’s so wonderful that Story Tapestries is tapping into that and turning it into a vibrant experience for the people in our county. Where do you see ST hitting the hardest in the next few years? Where are programs like this needed the most in the USA?

L: Our focus will remain equally strong on providing low- to no-cost programs that directly serve youth and the adults who interact with young people every day, while developing programs that are involving full communities. Any organization, city, town, or region that is struggling with issues of limited access to arts and education opportunities or with situations of diversity where differences are seen as barriers, are places where Story Tapestries can make an impact.

E: You’re really creating systemic change here in Montgomery County and other local counties in Maryland – your replicable models have been used as far south as North Carolina. It would be great to see these programs take flight and find their way into communities all over the USA. Thank you so much for sharing your time and insight with us, Lorienne.

For anyone who would like to be apart of this amazing organization and its wonderful, vital mission, please check out their website and consider making a donation. They provide some great resources for educators, and they have a beautiful blog full of great information and engaging stories. Until next time, everyone!

Emily Sinclair Montague, guest author

Emily Sinclair Montague

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Growth requires change – check out our new look and feel!

We knew that if we were to continuously spread our impact, we had to find means of widening our reach and our voice. A new website with a refined brand was our avenue to expand this reach in the community. For this we came to Marstudio.


One of the most important parts of the learning process is change. If there is no change, a lot of the time the learning process has not been completed. So, following our own advice, we decided a change was necessary. We knew that if we were to continuously spread our impact, helping assist in the learning process and reaching more and more community members to help them learn and grow through the arts, we had to find means of widening our reach and our voice. A new website with a refined brand was our avenue to expand this reach in the community. For years, we have honed our skills in the arts and education, but for our new brand and website we had to choose a company that was skilled in design, web, and the overall art of marketing. For this we came to Marstudio. Guided by our input, Marstudio created new branding and a new website for us.

The New Story Tapestries Logo

For our new logo we wanted something that was a more accurate representation of who Story Tapestries is. Marstudio created multiple concepts focusing not only on the services that we provide, but also Story Tapestries’ personality. After some iterations, our new logo combined three key elements of our brand:

  • Color to represent vitality, community, diversity, and collaboration
  • Puzzles to represent construction, building, creativity, learning, and problem-solving as well as the weaving together of individuals
  • The word “Story” to represent performance, storytelling, expression, interaction and inspiration

Their clever and visually effective execution gave us the visual persona that would instantly capture attention while accurately displaying the unique benefits that we can provide.


The New Story Tapestries Website

Now, with new branding as a foundation for the design of the new site, we worked alongside Marstudio to take our website to the next level. First, they redesigned it to create a site that not only fits our new branding, but also reflects who Story Tapestries is. Our new design perfectly captures our brand. The website is more informative, easy to use, and most importantly, a portal to education and learning. We’ve made it simple for any user to find what they are looking for, changing the menu to make everything easy to find, and even adding new features like filtered searches to assist in quickly finding the right programs for you.

As your portal to the power of dance, storytelling, theatre, music, and visual arts, we wanted to ensure that we could be a source of these essential creative arts. With a new brand and a new easy-to-use website, we’ve given ourselves the ability to reach more kids and empower, educate and engage them.

Thank you, Marstudio, for providing us the tools to widen our impact. We are excited for what the future holds!

explore Story Tapestries

Click to explore the new website now!

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Powerful video stories and exciting NEWS!

In our last story, we shared with you about the Building Bridges program at Montgomery Village Middle School. To continue that story, ST Artist Jenna Murphy shares some final thoughts and reflections:
That’s a wrap on Building Bridges at Montgomery Village Middle School for the 2017-2018 school year! Students spent the month of May rehearsing their plays and honing their performance skills in preparation for their debut at the Strathmore. They memorized their lines, polished their blocking, and embraced technical elements with grace. The night before their final performance, students performed excerpts from their plays at their school’s Pride Night. On May 31st, 20 students from Montgomery Village Middle School performed their original plays, “Worlds Apart” and “Destination Unknown,” at the Strathmore Mansion. These new works were created based on student writing and discussions that took place between February and March. “Worlds Apart” explored the dynamics of family, culture, immigration, heritage and ethnicity. “Destination Unknown” explored the challenges and rewards of transitioning from childhood to adolescence. Check out the footage from this special night at the beautiful Strathmore Mansion to hear the powerful words of these young artists.

In addition to this wonderful event listening to students’ stories, we also brought to a conclusion the first series of Amplify US! community storytelling workshops and performancesAmplify US! is designed and produced in partnership with Strathmore, Arts on the Block and Impact Silver Spring with funding support from Alternate Roots and the Montgomery County Neighborhood Fund. The program is also a part of the NEA’s Big Read series of events produced in collaboration with MCM, MCPL and the Friends of the Library. The program stemmed out of concern regarding the rise in hate crimes in Montgomery County, and resulted in the formation of a Community Engagement Team who has worked together to plan and bring this project to life. The program included a series of storytelling workshops and performances at public libraries aimed at helping participants harness the arts to tell their personal stories, and culminated on June 24th with a final public performance at the Strathmore Mansion.

In these fun and inspiring performances, participants in Amplify US! workshops along with professional storytellers and spoken-word artist told their personal stories through storytelling, slam poetry, hip-hop, and visual arts. Participants shared funny, dramatic, and heart-wrenching moments from their own lives through short performances and pop-up art exhibits. This Amplify US! performance followed our series of storytelling workshops aimed at helping participants harness the arts to tell their personal stories. Get a glimpse of what happened!

One more exciting piece of news we want to share with this Press Release:

2018-19 Seal No Background

After a careful vetting process, the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington has selected Story Tapestries, Inc. to be part of the Class of 2018-19. Story Tapestries, Inc. has undergone a rigorous review process conducted by a team of 120+ experts in the local philanthropic field, and has met the Catalogue’s high standards. Potential donors can be confident that the nonprofits in the Catalogue are worthy of their support.

This year the Catalogue celebrates its 16th anniversary: since its inception it has raised $40 million for nonprofits in the region. It also offers trainings, neighborhood-based opportunities for collaboration, and a speakers series for individuals who want to learn about and engage with the needs, challenges, and accomplishments of our shared community.

For this new edition, reviewers helped select 77 charities to feature in the print edition, 38 of which are new to the Catalogue this year. It also selected an additional 49 nonprofits to be re-featured on its website. The network now includes 400+ vetted nonprofits working in the arts, education, environment, and human services sectors throughout Greater Washington.

“People want to know where to give and they need trusted information. Based on our in-depth review, we believe that Story Tapestries, Inc. is one of the best community-based nonprofits in the region,” says Bob Wittig, Executive Director of the Catalogue for Philanthropy.

Katrina Zimmerman, Board President of Story Tapestries, says:
Being featured in The Catalogue is an honor that we are very proud to have achieved and we are very excited for the possibilities this partnership will create for Story Tapestries. This increased visibility will allow us to be one step closer to achieving our goals in building stronger, more literate communities using the arts.

The Catalogue believes in the power of small nonprofits to spark big change. As the only locally-focused guide to giving, its goal is to create visibility for the best community-based charities, fuel their growth with philanthropic dollars, and create a movement for social good in the greater Washington region. The Catalogue charges no fees; it raises funds separately to support its work.

We’re very excited to share this news with you – a supporter of Story Tapestries – as it demonstrates our continued commitment to excellence and to serving our community.

These stories and accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without a strong network of dedicated contributors, like you, and for that we give you our most sincere thanks.



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Tracking Student Growth

contributed by ST Artist, Jenna Murphy

Only a few weeks of rehearsals remain before the community performances of “Worlds Apart” and “Destination Unknown,” two pieces being devised with sixth-grade artists at Montgomery Village Middle School. Over the past two months, we have been collecting research for their plays through writing prompts, group discussions and movement exploration exercises. ​​


MVMS students reflecting on their personal experiences after having had a workshop with author Ellen Oh about race and representation in literature.

The artists returned from their Spring Break to the first draft of their plays’ scripts. They were very excited to see their words woven into something so complex and thoughtful. They took pride in recognizing their individual contributions within the group’s piece. Here is a sneak peak!

“ALL: Blink.

ARTIST: When I was first born, I looked at my mother. Saw her eyes.

ARTIST: Where am I?

ARTIST: I remember the doctor’s hands touching me.

(Baby cries)

ARTIST: I didn’t like it. It was too cold.

ARTIST: When I was first born, I didn’t know where I would go.

ALL: Blink. Blink.

ARTIST: Once I was three years old, I could imagine the littlest things.

ARTIST: I was a dreamer,

ARTIST: A wisher,

ARTIST: A magic bean buyer.

ALL: Blink. Blink. Blink.

ARTIST: At five, I read my first book

ARTIST: My mother’s and father’s eyes teared up as I read every word.

ARTIST: They waved to me as I started my first day of school

ARTIST: I met my best friend

ARTIST: I became the class clown

ARTIST: I reached up to the sky, wishing to grow up faster.

ALL: Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

ARTIST: I’m ten years old.

ARTIST: My mom told my sister and I we were going to have a baby brother.

ARTIST: I had to move away from my school, my best friend, my old life.

ARTIST: My parents told me they were getting a divorce.

ARTIST: I was scared of the challenges ahead.

ARTIST: I wanted to disappear.

ARTIST: I wanted to run away.

ARTIST: I wanted life to be perfect.

ARTIST: When you’re little, people tell you lies to make you feel better.

ARTIST: We look up to people that we think a perfect bodies and perfect lives and we think we can be just like them.

ARTIST: We all want things to go our way.

ALL: Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

ARTIST: And now we’re here.”

-The “Destination Unknown” Ensemble at Montgomery Village Middle School


We can’t wait to show you the finished products in May!

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Creative Poems Build Bridges

In collaboration with Montgomery Village Middle School, Montgomery Community Media, Montgomery County Public Libraries and their nonprofit partner, Friends of the Library Montgomery County, Story Tapestries has been delivering programs thanks to funding support from the Trawick Foundation’s TeamUp grant program. Students have been learning about the value of teamwork, improving their literacy and critical thinking skills while increasing their confidence and desire to actively engage with their peers and educators.


“Building Bridges” program participants putting their poetry in motion

ST Artist, Jenna Murphy, is actively working on the project and reports:

“Building Bridges” is off and running at Montgomery Village Middle School. We have nearly 40 students in this after-school program that meets bi-weekly. In this program, we teach students how to write dynamic and thought-provoking personal narratives, which we then weave together to create a student-performed, student-written play. The titles of their plays will be “Worlds Apart” and “Destination Unknown.” We are hard at work creating material for these socially-minded pieces. Here is a taste of what our young artists have been creating!

The following poem came about from a a poetry form called “I Am.” As a class, we discussed the most creative ways we could fill out this form that guides artists to create an autobiographical poem. The artists were challenged to avoid the obvious or the cliche, and to instead use metaphor and descriptive language to write a poem just as unique as they are. Here is a particularly outstanding example.

“I am a wave bounding onto shore with confidence and pride
I wonder who put me on this earth and if they’re on my side
I hear the soft whisper of the wind calling out to me
I see an uproar of life in every animal and tree
I want to be heard and most of all recognized
I am a wave bounding into shore with confidence and pride
I pretend to be Maya Angelou and above all rise
I feel the sweet home of nature and see it with my eyes
I touch the very stars and sky above
I worry that when I grow up I will feel a lack of love
I cry for my father and his father before him
I am curious about heaven and if I’ll ever see it’s rim
I understand that God is real trust me I know
I say that I believe in me but that is just a show
I dream about a world where I don’t have to hide
I try to be myself in my every single stride
I hope to see a better future the odds are on my side
For I am a wave bounding onto shore with confidence and pride”

-Sixth Grade Artist from Montgomery Village Middle School

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Welcome Melissa Killeleagh to Tuesdays with StoryTapestries!

This week, we are welcoming long-time friend Melissa Killeleagh as a regular contributor to our weekly Facebook LIVE series, “Tuesdays with StoryTapestries!” Tune in Tuesday, 12/4 at 7:00pm ET on Facebook for Melissa’s first video.  We recently sat down with Melissa to get her story:

Profile photo 2017

Melissa Killeleagh is a “mompreneur” with a vision for adding value to those around her. Life truly began for her just before turning 40, with the birth of her son. With undergraduate and graduate degrees from Ithaca College and Binghamton University, she worked in public finance for 10 years before trading in full-time work for her part-time business in social marketing. While having two incomes was great, Melissa felt that having more time to truly live her life was even better. She gave up on society’s suggested “mileposts” for success in life and began to design a life guided by her own values, relationships, and the notion that “we make a living by what we get, and we make a life by what we give.” Just when she started making plans, God laughed, and along came Jack. Melissa says that he IS her greatest gift. Her passion and purpose are building strong relationships, creating dynamic communities, inspiring leadership from the heart, and being a catalyst for the critical shift in paradigm our world needs right now, which Jack inspires her to do daily.  When not chasing her toddler or her dreams, you’ll find Melissa snuggling with her fur baby; reading; writing; dancing in the living room; conspiring with energy healers and thought leaders; listening to, or recording, podcasts; and, enjoying life outdoors.





What does she have to do with Story Tapestries?




This story weaves together in several ways.  First, mutual friends Karen & Stephen Beals, who also have hosted ‘Tuesdays with Story Tapestries,’ inspired Melissa to reach out to Arianna to learn more about her work and interview her for her podcast series ‘The Melissa Killeleagh Show,’ which is hosted by Fingerlakes1 TV and can be found on YouTube.  Then, in September, Melissa was invited by Artistic Director Angela Daddabbo to take a 12-week class at Auburn Public Theater that uses Julia Cameron’s ‘Artist’s Way’ to help a creative cluster of individuals come together and ‘recover’ their creative selves.  This experience initiated a series of conversations between Melissa and Arianna around the evolution of our stories, how art & creativity come into play, and inspired some ideas for ‘Tuesdays with Story Tapestries’ so stay tuned.  This work will only continue to unfold into a myriad of collaborations!





In the meantime, Melissa is also passionate about leveraging her network marketing business to help raise funds for organizations she loves.  Please feel free to shop over 450 pure, safe, and beneficial vegan, gluten-free and cruelty-free health & wellness products, from baby care to anti-aging, nutrition to cosmetics, online at for the month of December and Melissa will donate her full commissions to Story Tapestries!  When you shop online, enter ‘Arianna Ross’ as the host at checkout and you’ll see ‘Purchase with a Purpose for Story Tapestries’ pop up!


A special THANK YOU to Melissa for joining our LIVE video series, and for supporting us through her generous fundraising initiative!



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Rhyming and Rhythms in the Mountains of West Virginia

After our recent series of Professional Development Workshops in West Virginia the week of October 16th-20th, we asked artist Bomani Armah to share his experience:

Bomani PD at Suncrest (33)

“The ultimate goal for me as an artist and educator is to make sure my art, ideas and techniques live past me. It has matured from the time of a young artist of making sure everyone knows my name, to wanting to let other artists and educators skip the bumps in the road we inevitably come across trying to be effective communicators in our mediums and in our classrooms. The best, and most fun way for me to do that now is by doing professional development classes. Due to my work with Story Tapestries, I’ve
been able to spread these techniques and hard earned shortcuts with over 300 educators for a week while working with teachers and education majors in the Morgantown, West Virginia area. I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful relationship.

Bomani PD at West Preston (3)  Bomani PD in Harrison Co (46)







Bomani PD at Suncrest (7)

Being in front of a group of education  majors is thrilling. I remember the idealism and the enthusiasm. I remember recovering for all night study sessions and parties and trying to act educated and civil the next day. At least that was me. These students in Ms. Martucci’s and Ms. Satterfield’s class didn’t seem to have problems at all as we did two three hour crash courses in the art of teaching creative writing through Hip-Hop. I most enjoy the speed-through version of hip-hop history I do with these students who are younger than my favorite albums. We often get mad at the next generation for not knowing or understanding the history of the cultures they are a part of, without ever taking the time to tell them this history. Of all the things I imparted to the WV students here, I hope I passed on my love of using popular music and culture as a teaching tool. There will be a time when teaching using hip-hop won’t have the same cultural cache as it does now, but the technique of teaching through the lens of popular culture will always be relevant. Hopefully some Mountaineers will be a part of the next wave of art integration in the classroom.


On top of sharing great energy with about 100 education majors in Morgantown, I got to make rhymes and b-boy/b- girl stances with teachers in Preston County and Monongalia  County. I also got to debut my PreK-through-1st-grade workshop in Harrison County. The teachers were all incredibly receptive and enthusiastic, and I got several offers to come back and do residencies and assemblies. I’m already looking forward to my next trip to West Virginia.”





We’d like to thank The Art Museum at West Virginia University for joining the project this year by providing coaching and field trips to participating classrooms; Monongalia, Preston, and Harrison Counties for welcoming our Bomani in to their schools to work with their teachers; and the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at WVU and Open Circle Theatre for partnering to make this program a reality. This program is provided under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Bomani PD at West Preston (37)

VSA Logo 2017_18

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