2010 year in preview: Arts

Published 6:15 pm Monday, January 10, 2011

Staff Writer

Beaufort County’s nonprofit arts presenters are looking to build on the momentum they sustained throughout 2010.
These presenters have their eyes on making 2011 a more successful year as the slow economic recovery necessitates finding creative ways to bring the arts to the public.
The Beaufort County Traditional Music Association had a successful year in 2010, staging 46 performances at the Union Alley Coffeehouse in the back of the Inner Banks Artisans’ Center in Washington, said Rob Cuthrell, BCTMA president.
The group’s concerts reached around 1,500 people and generated more than $12,000 in revenues, with most of that money being used to compensate performers, Cuthrell related.
“We had some really outstanding groups that we were able to bring in,” he said.
BCTMA also is partnering with the Beaufort County Arts Council and the Turnage Theater to hold a music workshop Saturday at the theater.
This workshop will run in connection with a Friday performance by the April Verch Band.
Beyond the workshop, BCTMA will continue holding concerts at the coffeehouse and elsewhere, Cuthrell said.
“We will continue to have weekly jam sessions at the Union Alley Coffeehouse, located in the Inner Banks Artisans’ Center each week,” he said. “We won’t have as busy a schedule of performances this year as we did last.”
At one point, BCTMA was averaging six to nine performances a month, Cuthrell said, adding, “For a volunteer organization, that was a lot.”
In Belhaven, the Way Off Broadway Players is looking forward to two plays, one to be staged near the end of March or the first of April and the other to be performed in June or July, said George Wahab, director.
The first play of the year likely will be the comedy “Whose Wives Are They Anyway?” by Michael Parker, Wahab shared.
Wahab said he orders up to 20 plays at a time, and usually culls all but two or three that might fit the players’ comedic milieu.
“I read the synopses and, if a synopsis sounds good, I order it and read it, and if we like it we’ll do it,” he said.
Among the fresh ideas on the arts council’s pallet is a painting exhibition featuring the work of East Carolina University faculty and graduate students, said Joey Toler, BCAC executive director.
The arts council unveiled its first cooperative exhibit with ECU nearly two years ago, Toler said. This exhibit was a graphic-arts exhibition, he added.
This year’s show “should feature some young, good talent,” Toler observed of the latest ECU show.
“It should be somewhat challenging for our arts patrons,” he said.
BCAC also plans to conduct “an intense workshop” Jan. 22 to discuss the entity’s role in the arts, Toler said.
Asked whether he projects 2011 will be a better year for the arts than 2010, Toler responded with, “On a local level, I think it will just because our arts infrastructure is growing. We have more arts-related businesses going on downtown (in Washington), so I think it will be a good year on that level. I think some of our state funding may be a little less than it has in the past because of the deficit they’re looking at.”
Toler predicted the arts council will overcome funding shortfalls because its staff has prepared for reduced funding by crafting leaner budgets in recent years.
“We’re always creative in our fundraising, and we continue to be creative in our fundraising,” he said.
Cooperative ventures in the arts — such as the Verch concert pairing BCAC and the Turnage — will be essential in the future, indicated Scotty Henley, executive director of the Turnage.
“It’s going to be a necessity to make as many cooperative presentations as we can, either with the arts council or ECU bringing their performances here,” Henley said.
In all probability, financial pressures will lead the Turnage to schedule no more than 15 shows this year, and perhaps a minimum of 12 shows, according to Henley.
With this reality in mind, Toler said, “I certainly do think it behooves us all in the arts community to work together or side by side whenever possible.”
Henley made it known he concurred with that sentiment.