Arts Consultant Rejects Idea of New Center
By Tom Embrey
A slow and steady approach through partnerships is the best way to grow the arts in Moore County, said a consultant hired to explore the feasibility of arts in Pinehurst and Moore County.
That recommendation, from Duncan Webb of Webb Management Services, doesn't include building any new facilities.
"It is all about working with existing groups to getting there," Webb said during his presentation of a final report to the Village Council Tuesday.
He made five recommendations to grow the arts in Moore County:
n Invest slowly and carefully in programs, organizations and facilities to activate a community vision.
n Build a distinctive cultural identity for the region.
n Be incremental and strategic in investment choices.
n Invest in projects that provide communitywide effort and impacts.
n Look for partnerships to accomplish work.
Some of the possibilities include strengthening the local arts council by refocusing it on communications, advocacy and technical assistance for artists rather than zeroing in on programs.
Music conservancy, strengthening local festivals like Palustris, and renovating current facilities like auditoriums at Sandhills Community College and the local high schools, were other ways to strengthen the arts in the region.
Webb spoke against a new facility right now, saying that there are plenty of other venues that could be more than adequate with some local investment.
He indicated in his report that there are 10 facilities in Southern Moore County that are used for public performances, each having a capacity of between 90 and 1,330 seats.
"The problem is more the quality of the facilities," he said.
Webb said the arts can benefit the community by supporting economic development, potentially diversifying tourism and supporting a sense of place and quality of life.
"This is the strongest part of the argument to do something," he said.
Webb said the next step in the development of the arts is to identify priorities, explore partnerships, and develop a funding strategy.
One partnership he said need to be explored and cultivated is with Pinehurst Resort.
"We didn't make a lot of progress with them, but that doesn't mean it can't be made," Webb said.
In January, the council spent $33,500 from its general fund to pay for a needs assessment study for a performing arts center. Supporters have said the assessment is a critical piece to determine if an arts center is feasible in Moore County.
Webb presented a preliminary report in April to a capacity crowd of residents.
Allan Stagaard, a local architect who was part of an advisory group that suggested the study, said he was pleased with the report.
"The problem is that from the beginning the focus was on a 2,200-seat theater," Stagaard said. "It really has more to do with what the arts needs of this community are. The bottom line is you have to build the business (of the arts) first, before you build the building."
He said he thought the study outlined the needs and offered a direction to move forward.
"The fact is, now we have a lot of positive alternatives to look at," Stagaard said.
Webb Management Services, a New York-based company, is considered an expert in the field of arts and cultural consulting. The company has conducted similar work in Durham, Raleigh, Fayetteville, Cary, Wilmington, Charlotte and Blowing Rock.
When the village agreed to fund the feasibility study, it stipulated that the second phase or business plan of the project would be funded by a private entity, not village taxpayers.
Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Roy Fiorillo reinforced that again Tuesday, but also said she thinks the study will give a clearer direction for the future development of the arts locally.
"I think there are a lot of opportunities," Fiorillo said. "There are some good conclusions that can help all of Moore County."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or by email at email@example.com.
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