August 17, 2006

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Concord Publisher's Note: The Cap Center moves forward
By Dan Szczesny

The hot weather appears behind us, and having September right around the bend can mean only one thing in Concord. No, not snow, although have you checked your snow tires lately?

September in Concord means the start of a new season at the Capitol Center for the Arts, a reason in and of itself to eagerly anticipate fall. And this season’s lineup at the CCA looks like it won’t disappoint, with David Sedaris, Ani DiFranco and Jungle Jack Hanna being just a few of the performers scheduled to appear at one of New Hampshire’s finest venues.

But before this note starts sounding like an ad, this season at the Center is important for other, less obvious reasons as well, and it has to do with growth and change.

It has been more than eight months since the CCA’s guiding hand and biggest cheerleader, M.T. Menino, passed away. As executive director, Menino’s steady leadership turned a crumbling remnant of the past into a cultural bastion that the whole state can be proud of. Since then, interim director Jane Berwick has kept the boat afloat, but Berwick has made it clear that she is only a temporary director.

According to CCA board chairman Byron O. Champlin, the board will launch a national search for a new director at the end of September. Why the wait? According to Champlin, the search will be informed by a strategic direction being designed by Martin Vinik. He’s a consultant out of New York State the board hired to create what will amount to a master plan for the CCA.

It’s a slow process, but it’s the right one.

Under Menino’s tenure the CCA has become embedded in the community in a way cultural venues only dream of. The board can’t afford to lose the good will that exists between the CCA and Concord and a calculated, deliberate plan that looks into the future of the Center is exactly what we need for bringing on a director who not only can carry on Menino’s work but has a long-term vision for the Center that goes beyond filling the seats. In other words, in order to survive, the CCA needs more than a money counter.

A good example of the kind of community sharing of resources and interests that needs to continue to happen is the bond enjoyed between the CCA and Red River Theatres. Just up the street, at Capital Commons, Red River Theatre is poised to open a new movie house that will no doubt spur a renaissance on South Main Street. Until then, Red River’s shows come to the CCA. And despite their proximity, Champlin and his board hardly look at Red River as competitors. In fact, just the opposite. Any successful cultural venue on Main Street will be a success for all the other theaters and galleries, and in fact they all need to work together to help each other thrive.

It’s why a slow and steady approach to the CCA’s future is a wise route. M.T. would approve.


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