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Meet Jessica Austgen of GroupMind Foundation in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Austgen.

Jessica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The GroupMind Foundation (GMF) is a Denver-based 501(c)3 organization dedicated to improving our world through improv education, performance, and outreach.

Initially, we were simply the producers of the annual Denver Improv Festival but, as we’ve updated our mission, we’ve expanded our programming to include workshops and outreach experiences to communities that might not have access or knowledge about improv. We’ve also launched a smaller, sister festival to the DIF that focuses on elevating underrepresented voices in improv comedy.

I served as a board member on the GMF for five years—producing five Denver Improv Festivals—and last year my role shifted into the Executive Director position.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This first year has been full of road bumps that turned into valuable learning opportunities, as well as mistakes that all turned out to be “happy accidents.” Our biggest learning curve is discovering what groups of people are best served by our mission.

Please tell us about GroupMind Foundation – what should we know?
The GroupMind Foundation is a service organization that is dedicated to raising awareness about improvisation. We’re not a theater or a training program and aren’t in it for the money. Our ED (me) and board care deeply about supporting and expanding our community.

We want to know what our community wants, and how we can provide that for them. However, our community is constantly expanding and we’re excited to continue to develop programming to meet the ever-changing needs of Denver improvisers.

In addition to supporting local improv talent, we are striving to make Denver a prominent part of the national improv community.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I feel so fortunate to have worked with incredible arts and education organizations including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts—huge shout outs to Allison Watrous and the Education Department, as well as Charlie Miller and Off-Center at the DCPA!—as well as the Bovine Metropolis Theater, Voodoo Comedy, Impulse Theater and ComedySportz Denver.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Debe Hultgren Photography, Little Shoe Studios

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