State of the Art
Several of the region's arts organizations are benefiting from the vast arts management experience of these women. Recently taking over their new posts, they have big plans for their respective charges.
Leland’s Art Enclave
JILL BROWN, Leland Cultural Arts Center Manager
Jill Brown (above) wasn’t looking for a job when she heard about the cultural arts building planned for Leland.
The Ohio native says she knew nothing about the town when she came for the interview. What she found in the developing community was a huge surprise.
“For something like this (community) to be forward thinking in wanting to build and develop an arts center, I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “They got me with their enthusiasm.”
Brown worked with the architects and contractors through the two-year process and is now putting together the center’s programming. It’s a task she’s well suited to accomplish. In addition to a BFA and MFA, she holds a K-12 teaching certificate in art education and taught in the art education department at Bowling Green State University for more than three years.
She moved to Durham in 2006 to work for the arts council there before taking the helm of Sertoma Arts Center for the city of Raleigh. She was there when a friend told her about the Leland position.
Since construction was completed in the spring, Brown has been busy hiring teachers, creating programs, and developing a performing arts series. The 18,000-square-foot space incorporates studios as well as performance space with dressing rooms, so the variety of uses is almost endless.
“We will be constantly changing and growing to add more and more arts,” Brown says. “We’re taking our time to do it right. We’ve put together classes for all ages – pottery to yoga to drama classes…We want to meet the need for as many demographics as we can.”
The space also lends itself to events such as an arts fair with a holiday market, she says.
“We’re definitely taking one step at a time in the development process so it gets presented to the community in a very positive and professional way,” Brown says.
A public open house of the new space is planned for August.
KRISTEN BROGDON, director of UNCW’s Office of the Arts
The Charlotte native moved to Wilmington six months ago to be closer to family and stepped into the newly created position at University of North Carolina Wilmington (which combined two others) in June. Among her many responsibilities is the management of Kenan Hall, UNCW’s performance center.
The Duke University graduate left North Carolina two decades ago. During that time, she earned a master of arts in business degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration, spent nine years in varying levels of responsibility at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and worked almost eight years with Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago. Those positions have given her an incredible network of international contacts she hopes to bring to UNCW.
“I always wanted to work on a university campus and do this kind of presenting because I think there are so many opportunities to connect artists and communities,” Brogdon says.
With an undergraduate degree in economics, she recognizes the connection between arts and a healthy economy.
She voiced surprise that UNCW offers little in arts management curriculum. “I’m hoping I can change that. In the meantime, I’m planning to have lots of internships in our office so people who are interested can get that kind of arts education,” she says.
Brogdon says she’s fortunate that Kenan’s 2015-16 season was in place when she arrived.
“I can spend a year ramping up and getting to know the local community” and how to best engage the community with the campus,” she says.
“I am interested in the artists who are from the coastal South and North Carolina, so there will be some regional focus in all arts disciplines.”
That said, she wants Kenan’s series to be international in scope.
“At Hubbard and Kennedy, I met extraordinary artists from around the world. I would love to engage them over time, bring them to Wilmington or bring people they think of to Wilmington,” she says. “I’m lucky to have a year to start and a lifetime to continue to learn from the people around me.”
Back in the Game
TRACY WILKES, volunteer /community engagement coordinator at CFCC’s Humanities and Fine Arts Center
Tracy Wilkes retired from her position as director of DREAMS of Wilmington a few months ago.
“I swore I would never be involved with a startup again,” she says, but most days she’s found at Cape Fear Community College’s new Humanities and Fine Arts Center, with its 1,600-seat theater, where she is charged with recruiting and training volunteers in customer service.
Wilkes (above) left DREAMS, which she founded eighteen years ago, to spend more time traveling and assisting her husband, Paul, with his pet project, Homes of Hope in India. That required either part-time work or no work.
That’s when Shane Fernando, director of the CFCC center, approached her about coordinating the volunteer program part time. It includes recruiting, training, and engaging the community in the center’s offerings. For example, “when dance companies or others come to town, I will organize the community residencies, maybe at CFCC, at UNCW, at The Dance Cooperative, and so forth,” she says.
On the job since mid-May, she’s been reading all she can about volunteerism. It’s a huge field, she says. She’s currently meeting with people who have filled out volunteer applications and getting to know them.
“People are excited about this new theater,” she says.
She hopes to gain traction for a concept she calls Wilmington Theater Volunteer Corp. That group could serve multiple area theater venues with the same great service. She’s begun discussing the idea with other groups in hopes of building Wilmington’s reputation as a theater destination.
Interesting to her, this position that includes working with CFCC students brings her full circle to her roots as a theater major at Emerson College.
The center’s opening celebrations are expected to take place in October, she says.
To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to megandeitz.com