Q&A: Thurber House’s Jennifer Gregg

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From the August 14, 2014 edition

Jennifer Gregg’s passion for literature is almost as strong as her dedication to community growth. Luckily for her, she gets to channel both in her new role as executive director of the Thurber House, a non-profit organization offering writer residencies, author readings and writing classes for children and adults.

The author and former senior director of development for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio will assume duties at Thurber House on Sept. 1. We sat down with Gregg on a recent Monday to discuss her future plans for Thurber House, and why she likes calling the Arch City home.

Working for non-profits is in my blood. I originally wanted to be a speech writer, but once I started down the non-profit path, it just made sense. I was raised by a deaf parent who shaped my love for literature and showed me how important non-profit organizations are to the quality of a community. It’s rewarding to help build the community you live in. Every non-profit I’ve worked for has made nurturing and developing leaders a priority. Thurber House is no exception. There is a strong connection between literature and social justice; it feels like a perfect match.

Columbus pleasantly surprised me. I moved to Columbus from Los Angeles in 2012. I had been to Columbus about 10 years before for another job, and I was pleasantly surprised how much it had grown. I was excited to see all the art and activities Columbus offered. The food scene is one of my favorite things about Columbus. You can tour the world with your taste buds in this city. My partner and I plan on calling Columbus home for as long as it’ll have us.

Columbus is growing as a city; the Thurber House plans to grow with it. Columbus has a strong talent base, and Thurber House is a great resource. I want to expand our programs and offer ways for everybody to participate. It’s really important to have a gathering place for all people who love literature. I plan on bringing in more LGBTQ authors and encouraging diversity. We want to reach new audiences and plan on expanding our programming to incorporate more poetry and spoken word. We want everybody to be able to participate.

The Thurber House isn’t just a resource for writers. Thurber House doesn’t just encourage learning, it helps facilitate it. We teach writing to children and adults, we have author readings and other programs. I know from personal experience that literature enhances the lives of children, and therefore enhances the community. We grow through storytelling — it’s important to have a gathering place for that.

Literature is paramount for community growth. I want everybody to know about Thurber House by bringing in new audiences and collaborating with different organizations. Being able to offer diversity and inclusiveness is very important to me. The hardest part of my job is educating people on the breadth of [the Thurber House’s] work. We want people to understand what a hidden gem this place really is.

Photo by Tim Johnson