OPEN DOOR: arts council issues open invitation to panel discussion
Published 12:44 am Sunday, January 18, 2015
A year has passed since the Beaufort County Arts Council hosted the first performance at its new home, the Turnage Theater — a year packed with concerts, exhibits, indie movie premieres, kids’ camps and more. Now BCAC staff is looking to the future by bringing in a crew of eastern North Carolinians who know theater, who have theaters, and will share their trials, successes and their impact with local officials, economic developers and anyone with an interest in helping the restored, early 20th-century theater succeed.
“It’s a panel discussion about the Turnage and how it relates to the community, to downtown revitalization, to economic development, to tourism,” said BCAC Executive Director Joey Toler. “We have a good, solid year under our belt now, being in the Turnage, and we feel like we have figured out a lot of things — not everything — and going forward we want to look around at some of our peer organizations and talk about what has worked for them; mistakes they have made and successes and I think we’ll get a good take away from that.”
The panel discussion will be held Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon in the theater. It is open to the public.
Panel members include North Carolina Arts Council ‘s Vicki Vitiello, who works with presenting organizations statewide, from 50-seat black box theaters to the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), which ranks fourth in the U.S. for theater attendance, as well as representatives from peer organizations like the municipal-owned Paramount Theatre in Goldsboro and Elizabeth City’s Maguire Center, run by Arts of the Albemarle.
“(Arts of the Albemarle) are like us in the fact that they are a regional arts council and their space has a performing arts center, a gallery and a gift shop, just like we do,” Toler said. “They had a few stumbles in the very beginning and they’re really excited about talking to us about what happened to them to get them back on track.”
Toler has extended invitations to attend to a variety of organizations and agencies: Washington and Beaufort County governments, Beaufort County Committee of 100, Washington Harbor District Alliance, Washington Tourism Development Authority, Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and more.
“We’d love to see officers and the board of those organizations, as many as possible that can come out and just give it a listen. I think it’s going to be very informative, especially coming from similar organizations in eastern North Carolina,” Toler said. “I get to interact with these colleagues all the time — I hear wonderful things and wonderful ideas that I can come back and talk about with people, but sometimes it’s good when people can hear about it from other sources.”
Some of those who will be hearing Thursday’s discussion are BCAC board members, who will be taking the knowledge found there to a BCAC board retreat, and using it to create long term plan for BCAC and the theater.
BCAC purchased the theater in late 2013, after its first attempt at revival ended in foreclosure in 2011. Reopened in January of 2014, on Friday night, BCAC celebrated the anniversary of its first performance, featuring poet Glennis Redmond, with a concert by award-winning jazz and soul musician Shana Tucker and her band.
Toler said the first year has had its ups and downs, with a few surprises thrown in.
“One of my biggest disappointments has been the attendance at some of our shows. But at the same time, it was a huge learning experience because it made us focus on marketing: how to get the word out; the most effective way to communicate with the public,” Toler said. “However, one of the most satisfying things from having this first year under our belt is the continued good will of the folks who support us. They’re glad we’re there. They’re glad we’re open. They’re glad to see the lights on at the Turnage. That translates to financial support, which is great, but sometimes it translates to volunteers, which is good, too. As long as people feel good about it, it helps us feel good about it too.”
With five major performances on the books and BoCO Music Festival, the Beaufort County Traditional Music Association’s Pamlico Opry and more partnerships with East Carolina University looming on the horizon, the theater will have another full year. All that’s left is to fill the seats — including for Thursday’s panel discussion.
“We encourage people who are interested in the arts community and the Turnage specifically to be there and listen and ask questions,” Toler said. “Our main objective for this is to be on our best, most informed path going forward.”