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Averitt Center director leaving

After 13 years, Tim Chapman headed to Carrollton


August 26, 2016

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    Shockwaves rippled through the community this week as we learned of the departure of Tim Chapman, who has led the popular Averitt Center for the Arts since it opened in 2004.  Tim has accepted the position as manager of the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center in Carrollton, Georgia.
    It is a huge win for Carrollton and equally devastating loss for our community.
    The opportunity places him 50 miles from his father in a community that is similar to Statesboro in many ways. In his new position, he will report to the Department of Community Development, which Chapman said recognizes the importance of the arts center and its programs as an economic driver for the community of Carrollton.
    “I consider Statesboro home and will continue to visit here,” Chapman said. “I have been given a lot of credit for the success of the Averitt, but the truth is Statesboro is an easy city to succeed in because its citizens are so supportive. I have been blessed with great volunteer boards and have been fortunate to surround myself with some of the best and brightest staff members in this industry. Hopefully the next director can build on our success and take this wonderful center and its programs to the next level.”
    The late Hal Averitt and his wife Connie understood the need for a cultural arts center in our community more than 20 years ago when he was mayor. Also, they saw the opportunity of combining the effort with the restoration of the bank building and movie theater, which could serve as the centerpiece for revitalizing the downtown area. Steering and growing the Averitt’s vision has been in the capable hands of Chapman for the past 13 years.
    In 2003, Chapman became the first full-time employee hired at the Averitt Center. He was charged with the task of opening the center that was under renovation and building a sustainable arts program in the facility.
    “My first two-time hires were Connie Hayes as box office manager and Tyler Davis as our technical director,” Chapman said. “Our first year as a staff and our volunteer board focused on operating as an art gallery and performance art venue. The facilities are beautiful but they are very expensive to operate. We knew that if we were going to see the center flourish we had to expand the reach of the operations.
    “Through this evolution, we saw the focus of the center move from simply a gallery and performance facility to also a center for arts education. That is the single most important shift we made that has not only allowed the center to maintain but flourish and grow.”
    With that additional focus, Chapman and his team looked for ways to partner with other arts organizations already in place like the Statesboro STARS and the Statesboro Youth Chorale. They created the “Legend in the Arts” to recognize and celebrate local artist’s achievements and also established summer camp programs.
    In turn, the camps became feeders for Averitt academic programs that run throughout the year. They created a youth theater headed by Mical Whitaker and a ballet program directed by Jurijs Safonavs.
    Further expansions have included ceramics, youth strings plus literary and puppetry arts. The growth required additional space, which led to the physical expansion to the Center for Performing Arts and the Whitaker Black Box Theater on West Main and the soon-to-open Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts in the City Campus.
    “I grew up in a family where sports were very important,” Chapman said. “Through this, I understood the positive impact sports play in helping shape young people. What I have discovered in leading this center is how equally important the powerful role arts impact the growth and maturity of a child. In researching this void with university leaders, I verified the impact this huge void had created. Students entering GSU from metropolitan areas had a leg up in arts education than children equal academically coming from rural areas. Over the past decade, we have seen the positive effects of our programs have had in equaling the playing field for students in our community.”
    In addition to helping close this “arts gap,” Chapman said he has many wonderful memories and milestones as director. However, bringing the Erk Russell play, A Life Done Right, is one of his highlights.
    “This play was brilliantly done,” he said. “Set in Snooky’s Restaurant back drop and allowed our community to not only celebrate the life of our local hero Erk Russell, but also gave the community an opportunity to mourn his death.”
    Chapman said collaborating with the Bulloch County Historical Society to create a puppet show for third-graders to help them learn about local history is another highlight, as are bringing the Norman Rockwell and Warhol exhibits to Statesboro.
    When Mayor Averitt appointed me to a small group of business leaders charged with bringing his dream to reality, we were often overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project. As a downtown business owner, I understood the need to inject new life into Statesboro’s core. I recall sitting through Tim’s interview and having an overwhelming feeling that he not only understood our community, but had the passion and skills to drive this vision to success.
    His selection was unanimous and from that point forward we have all reveled in his and the center’s success. What has impressed me the most about Tim is his heart for people and his core belief and desire to create an environment for children to flourish and then get out of their way.
    He has done that masterfully and educated a few of us adults along the way to the value and power of creating a level playing field educationally for our children.
    Chapman’s last day at the Averitt is Friday, Sept. 16. An interim director has not been named.


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