Meet Chris! Christopher Brazelton is the executive director of Elm Street Cultural Arts Villiage. Christopher lives in Woodstock with his wife Morgan, son Nathan, and their dogs, Tally and Fischer. He started at Elm Street in April of 2013 and has loved getting involved with the community. He holds a B.A in Theatre from Florida State University. Prior to coming to Woodstock, Christopher founded Leave Your Mark Productions in Tallahassee, FL, where he built a volunteer base of 400 people and produced over 25 productions with a vision that each ticket contributing to social justice issues globally. Now, Christopher is focused on Elm Street programs to create vibrancy and engage the community with everything that the organization does. This includes the Reeves House art center, a visual arts venue which will include a gallery, makers space, and an on-site cafe. Being a somewhat serial entrepreneur, he is excited to see the next steps the organization takes and can’t wait for you to be a part of it.
What inspired you or led you to your current career?
I started in the theatre via music in the junior high, high school time-frame and really enjoyed it. In December 2004, there was a big tsunami in the Indian Ocean. That was the first time I became an organizer for an event. At that age, when you’re young and rambunctious, you kind of get your hands dirty in whatever because you’re curious. I learned things as I was acting or singing or setting up sound, and ultimately a friend of mine wanted to do a benefit concert. He asked for my help and I said, I’m not really good at this, but sure, I’ll help. Part of his family lived in the area of a Hindu temple and they agreed to host it, so we called it “The Shoeless Tsunami Show” because we couldn’t wear shoes in the temple. What ended up happening was the entire Jacksonville community, where I grew up, ended up rallying around this show. It was packed and the news media came. That’s when I fell in love with producing.
Ever since that point, at various levels, I found a passion for not just the stories that are on the stage, but I love to hear about the stories that are created because of what’s on the stage. The gallery experience is fantastic, but I want to hear what happened because somebody walked through the door.
I feel fortunate because as soon as I did it, I was into it. In college, I created a non-profit to put some of the things I was learning into practice. It was called Leave Your Mark Productions and we produced shows and were fortunate enough to produce feature films, an art show, and theatre. The idea behind it was entertainment as a cause, usually linked to some sort of social justice issue. Not just for the sake of social justice, but to show that there is more to it than just what you see in the film or on the stage. This was in 2009-10 when the economy was not thriving, yet we were having success, with some backing from Florida State University. But I felt that we still had a lot to learn.
After college, I did some research and felt Atlanta would be a good place to continue. So, I moved to Atlanta, got a job with a company and was miserable at that job. Then about eight months into that I saw a job posting for Director of Operations at Elm Street Cultural Arts Village, and I thought I could do this. I wasn’t sure about it, I knew no one there, never had been to Woodstock, but I thought, I’ll try it out, what the heck. I submitted my application after probably weeks of contemplating, and happened to submit the same day they were pulling everything off the website. Dana was her name, she’s from Florida State too, thought, well, I’ll give this guy a call. We had a great interview and the rest is history. That was in 2013.
How long have you lived or worked in Woodstock?
I moved here when my wife and I got married, so it was in 2014. First, we had an apartment here, and now we are happy homeowners.
What is your favorite restaurant in Woodstock, and what do you love there?
That is a tough one! We are close in proximity to Rootstock & Vine and Ipp’s Pastaria, so that’s dangerous. But I do also enjoy a treat-yourself to Century House where I will get appetizers and maybe a cocktail.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in Woodstock? Who would you like to see nominated as a Face of Woodstock?
Brian Stockton. He works in the Woodstock office of Economic Development. One of the things we’re working on is how can we best serve artists and makers in the community, not just at Elm Street, but throughout the city.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
My wife and I have said that we would like to travel to Australia at some point. Now, of course, it would be for different reasons and to help out. I have not been too far out of the country, only to Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala, all great experiences. I would like to go see Europe for no other reason than just learning and experiencing different cultures. And it would be interesting to get outside of the Western culture, so India or Beijing, China.
What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theater?
I like different movies for different reasons. I do still very much like The Help a lot. I thought that was a very powerful piece as well as entertaining, I kind of just get lost in the story of it.
I’m also a sucker for the Marvel and the Star Wars movies [laughs]. I’ve learned that’s sort of how I recharge.
What advice would you give a crowd of people?
Simply put, be kind. Maybe we’ve lost that along the way. There are so many values of education and learning, that sometimes we unintentionally forget about being kind. A habit I’m trying to form is to be better about listening. One of the things I’ve coined for myself is, “don’t speak your truth, seek more truths” because I think that leads into kindness.
What is something on your bucket list?
I would hope that when people look at me they would know that I’m passionate about the community and not just my own little world. For the community as a whole, I’m passionate about expanding our horizons through Elm Street, not because Woodstock needs it, but because Woodstock deserves it.
What is your favorite music or band you would like to see (dead or alive)?
I’m a sucker for show tunes. I was actually trained in voice operatically, but I don’t sing much anymore. I think a concert I would attend would be AC/DC, but back in the day when there weren’t so many rules at shows preventing, say, an artist shooting a cannon on stage [laughs]. I think something like that would be a lot of fun.
What current / former local business makes you the most nostalgic about Woodstock?
I think what makes Woodstock different is the camaraderie. It’s not that business gets done, it’s that we are doing business together. When people come to Woodstock, we all win.
Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? Where in Woodstock would you have lunch?
It would have to be somebody I look up to but not because I agree with them, it would be more to learn about a topic. To me, it would be more fascinating if I disagree with that person and then learn from their perspective. However, if it were someone I would probably agree with, it’d have to be Susan Booth who is the artistic director of the Alliance Theater, or Doug Shipman, president of the Woodruff Arts Center. If Doug Shipman’s treating, we can have lunch at Prime 120 – ha!
What is your favorite thing or something unique about Woodstock?
I have heard from some of our actors that it occurs to them that everyone seems to know each other here, there is really a sense of community. It’s not just an audience that comes in and leaves. And I think everyone thinks they have that, which is fine, but I’ll just go out and say it, I think Woodstock does it better. So there.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
My hope is that in five to ten years I would still be at Elm Street, but more than that, I’m interested in the long game of what can we create for the community that will outlast my time here.
(Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
From the “Two Truths and a Lie” game, my two truths are: I’ve been on Cash Cab, and I sacked Tim Tebow in football. We were in rival high schools.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
That would depend on what mood I am feeling. If I am tired, home would be a “retreat” or “rest” in my physical home. I also think of “family” as my home base, a core reminder of who I am and where I come from. But then I also think “recharge,” so that I can go back out and serve the community.
If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?
It would have to be my wife because of the inspiration she provides for me, but also her support to continue to keep me moving forward.
If you had a full-time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose?
Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?
I enjoy cooking more than I enjoy cleaning, so, I’ll go with a housekeeper so I can keep on cooking!
Christopher in Community
Christopher can be found at the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village , around Woodstock, or with his family.