Fredericksburg Mayor-elect Mary Katherine Greenlaw told a group of arts and culture advocates that the city doesn't need to reinvent the wheel to have a performing arts center here. To bring the idea to fruition, she wants to create a workgroup of stakeholders that can work on a proposal.
"I guess you could call me a lifetime advocate for the arts," Greenlaw said as the keynote speaker for Wednesday night's annual meeting of The Arts and Cultural Council of the Rappahannock (ACCR) at the Mansard Gallery on the third floor of the Fredericksburg Area Museum.
Greenlaw said all the city needs to do is look at other communities that have created successful performing arts centers and see which one of those models fits best for Fredericksburg. When Greenlaw won the election in May, shesaid she wanted to focus on getting a performing arts center here.
"It is very high in my personal plans," she said. "I have already started conversations to move it forward so it gets legs."
Greenlaw, the owner of the former Houston School of Dance and an avid dancer, said she'd love to see the Richmond Ballet appear in the city annually. She said the city needs to create a climate in which the arts can flourish and City Council has made strides in doing that. For example, she said the Arts and Culture District provides the opportunity for grants and she wants to see it expanded.
"We must create public-private partnerships. We are a small city and the city cannot do it all by itself," she said.
A performing arts center could revitalize the city and become an economic development driver, Greenlaw said. She said city residents need to come to agreement on exactly what they want and then pick which successful models elsewhere might work best in Fredericksburg.
"My goal is to create a group of knowledgeable people to work on it," she said.
Councilman George Solley, who serves on the Fredericksburg Arts Commission, was in attendance, along with a representative from the downtown library, local artists and gallery owners and numerous board ACCR board members.
Greenlaw also touted some of the results from the Fredericksburg Downtown Gang survey in which about 1,000 people voted the First Friday events as the second-best downtown event. She said the city should have more similar events on other days of the week to promote the arts.
"I hope that the banners recently placed our a visual representation of that support," she said. "Can we do more? Yes, we can. We should be a haven for folks to come and enjoy arts an cultural events."
Ellen Killough, president and CEO of the Fredericksburg Area Museum, said local arts aren't promoted as much as the city's history and deep Civil War roots.
Greenlaw said that she's heard the same complaint, but from Civil War buffs who say the arts get more attention and promotion.
"When it comes to advertisements and tourism, we get criticism from all sides," Greenlaw said. "As a practical matter, we have so much to advertise here, so much to sell here, so many reasons to come here and stop off of 95."
Kathryn Willis, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Council of the Rappahannock and vice president of its board of directors, said she would like to see the historic Renwick building (where Circuit Court is held) on Princess Anne Street retrofitted for a museum to showcase the works of the best artists in this region. Greenlaw said City Council will soon begin to discuss uses for Renwick because Circuit Court will eventually vacate the building for the new 78,000-square-foot courts facility to be built at the corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets.
The Arts and Cultural Council of the Rappahannock is a regional nonprofit serving Fredericksburg, Colonial Beach, and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Westmoreland. The volunteer group works to strengthen and sustain arts organizations, artists and arts-related businesses, promoting arts events and sharing arts news.
The group also unveiled its new website at arts-along-the-river.org as a place people can go to learn about artists, upcoming events, galleries, venues and other arts and cultural programs. ACCR also created its own Facebook page. The ACCR's total assets as of June 18 are $12,746.10, and Willis said the nonprofit applies for grants.