A Letter from Third Coast's Johanna Zorn (5/22/19)

The following letter was sent out to our communities via the Third Coast Newsletter on May 22, 2019. For press inquiries, please refer to today's press release about the announcement.

Dear Friends,

In 2000, Julie Shapiro and I founded Third Coast Festival because we felt there should be a Sundance of radio to support the nascent field of audio documentary, and to share further and wider the incredible storytelling that we were beginning to hear. Over the past two decades, Third Coast Festival has been impactful beyond my wildest dreams, and on the forefront of the dramatic growth in audio storytelling and podcasting. Now I’m excited to pass my leadership of the organization on to the next generation, whose bold new ideas will foster the next chapter of Third Coast’s growth and evolution. Third Coast will soon begin the search for a new Executive Director who will join our talented staff of Maya Goldberg-Safir, Emily Kennedy, Isabel Vázquez, Gwen Macsai and Rebekah Silverman.

I am deeply appreciative to have worked with so many extraordinary producers and visionaries since Third Coast’s founding who have collectively shaped the organization. And I want to send a very special thank you to my Co-Founder and Artistic Director for 13 years, Julie Shapiro. I also want to thank all of you, the ever-growing community of listeners, producers and supporters who have helped make these past 20 years amazing. You are the reason for Third Coast, and you have shown your enthusiasm and generosity in countless ways.

I leave Third Coast with our mission stronger and more necessary than ever. We remain deeply committed to pushing the boundaries of audio storytelling through supporting producers and sharing their work worldwide. Our annual Conference, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition and Radio Residency, as well as our curation via radio/podcast, live events and thirdcoastfestival.org, continue to make deep impressions on the experiences of makers and listeners alike.

I’m especially happy that the Third Coast Conference has been such an important gathering space for audio storytellers since its very first year. That was 2001, just a few weeks after 9/11. Yet 200 people convened in Chicago and started to build a big-hearted and collaborative community. It’s a community that over the past two decades has ignited countless new audio works/shows, partnerships, even marriages! I love when people tell us after attending for the first time that they’ve found their people, their work family.

I know that the community-driven aspects of Third Coast will only get stronger in the years to come. It started with the Radio Residency, it was reinforced through our creation of the Third Coast Fund. Now, I’m excited to witness my Third Coast colleagues developing the Community Accountability initiative, which includes the organization’s first Advisory Group, as well as efforts to lower barriers to entry across all of the organization’s programming. I wish the Third Coast crew and next Executive Director the very best as they chart the organization’s future.

I won’t be leaving until the fall, and I look forward to working with Third Coast’s board and staff to ensure a smooth transition and secure future. We'll release a job description next week when the search process officially kicks off May 30. As always, we’d love your feedback and ideas. Please share your thoughts with board member Lane Vanderslice who is heading up the search committee.​

What will I do come September? I’m excited to consider the options. It might be in audio storytelling, it might be in arts non-profits, it might be something completely new. Mostly, I look forward to being Third Coast’s biggest fan, seeing you at events and gatherings, and joining you in support of the organization we care so much about.

Johanna Zorn