Arts of the Pamlico explains need for city’s support

Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Arts of the Pamlico made its case for continued and increased city funding during the City Council’s meeting Monday evening by asking for $50,000.

With at least 25 supporters in the audience supporting him, AOP Executive Director Joey Toler told the council why the city’s support is important in continuing the role of the arts council in the community, a role that includes economic development. Toler’s remarks came during the part of the meeting during which outside agencies explained their requests for funding from the city. Last week, AOP sent out a “call for action,” asking AOP supporters to attend the council’s meeting.

In this fiscal year’s budget, the city allocated $14,400 to AOP. That amount represents a 10-percent reduction in city funding from fiscal year 2014-2015, when AOP received $16,000 from the city. AOP’s appropriation from the city has declined in at least three previous fiscal years.

Toler said AOP bought the Turnage Theatre (where its offices are located) after the city determined it could not afford to buy the facility. Toler said then-City Manager Josh Kay suggested the arts council buy the theater, which had been dark for two years, and make use of it.

“At that time, the arts council was told that if we could figure out a way to do this on our own, that it was possible that the city would be open to financially supporting our efforts with increased funding. I asked, ‘What are we talking about here?’ And I was told about $50,000 annual support. So, that’s where that figure comes from. It’s not a number I just grabbed out of the air,” Toler said.

AOP’s three-year financial plan concerning its acquisition of the theater is on track, except for the decreased support from the city, Toler said.

“In January of this year, we began our third year as owners and operators of the Turnage. In that time, we made the Turnage an active and vital cultural community center for all people. AOP — Arts of the Pamlico — serves a demographic that reflects our community by services and programming to young and old, black and white and from all economic backgrounds. We offer a variety of events that make the theater accessible to as many constituents as possible,” Toler said.

Toler said AOP’s events bring “thousands and thousands of people to downtown Washington each year, and along with that economic benefits that ripple out to merchants, businesses, tourism and our own regional visibility.”

Toler said AOP continues to seek financial support from several sources, including the private sector.

“The most glaring support that is missing is the support from the city,” Toler said. “Since we purchased the theater, support from the city has not increased. In fact, our support has decreased in that time.”

Toler said AOP acknowledges the city made no formal commitment regarding city funding in relation to AOP’s purchase of the theater, but the council and public need to be aware of something related to AOP’s funding request.

“It’s reasonable to assume that the arts council would never had considered purchasing the Turnage Theatre if it were not for the city’s influence during those early discussions,” Toler said. “The bottom line is that increased city support is vital to our long-term sustainability.”

Upon questioning from council members, Toler explained AOP, as a regional arts council, also serves Hyde and Washington counties. Hyde County provided $1,000 to AOP for this fiscal year, but Washington County provided no funds, Toler said.

The council heard other agencies’ presentations regarding city funding, but it took no action on them. Discussion and action regarding those requests will come during the council’s upcoming budget sessions.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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