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New director at Averitt thinking outside the box

June 02, 2017

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Averitt Center for the Arts Executive Director Jamie Grady has been on the job a little more than a month – and he’s impressed with Statesboro and the way the community supports its arts.

Grady has made the business side of the arts his career and it has taken him to Atlanta, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Zealand. He holds a master’s degree in arts administration from Lesley College, a bachelor’s in business management from Bentley College, and a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.

His job will be to manage the center, its four facilities, and its annual budget of about $1 million. When asked what the snapshot of the Averitt looks like in his mind, Grady smiles.

“I think the arts center is a great place. The development that has happened has been pretty quick. For an arts organization to have four different spaces, three buildings, a number of programs available to the community, it’s pretty impressive,” he said.  Grady add that he’s met a lot of people locally who are supportive of the arts programs at the center.

“I’m curious if they know what they have though,” he said. “When things are in your own town, you don’t always see them as big as they are perhaps.”

During the first few months on the job, Grady said it will be all about stabilization. He’ll be focused on learning to understand what the community is looking for, as far as programming is concerned, both in the classrooms and on the stage. And he’ll be looking for what’s missing.

“That’s the hard one,” he said.

Grady says during the interview process, they discussed at great length how the local arts program might attract regional and national artists.

“What I think would be really special about that, I think that the community would really respond to that,” he said. Then, he added, he’d like to go the opposite direction.

“If you can, think of growing out and growing in,” he said. “I’ve been told there are communities around Statesboro who would be interested in having our programs come to them. Satellite programs and summer camps, having our teachers go to them. Growing our programs that way.”

Grady calls Georgia Southern University a huge asset to the community, and is interested in continued collaboration.

“It’s great because it has such an influence on our community, with the people that the school brings in, it really makes this community,” he said. “People say Statesboro is such a college town, but depending on where you live and work, you don’t see the college. So you kind of forget it’s there. But it’s wonderful that it’s here, and it’s wonderful that it’s expanding as well. People really see the momentum in the community.”

Grady wants that same momentum for the Averitt and its programming.

“As the Blue Mile comes in and as the community changes its perception of the university and downtown, and downtown begins to flourish, we want to step up our game too, to be able to serve the businesses that are here, and bring people downtown, and serve as many audiences as we can,” he said.

He’s open to partnering with the college’s arts programs as well.

“The more collaboration the better,” he said, adding that the smaller venues that the Averitt can offer will be beneficial for students and for smaller productions.

“By using all of the performance stages, it will benefit the community and the performers,” he said. 

“We’re a service in a couple of ways. We’re a service in that we’re presenting and producing work. But we’re also a service just by being a rental house and having a theater, so that people can bring their work to us,” he added.  “Having more people come and be familiar with the space, use the space and celebrate the arts in Statesboro, that’s part of our mission as well.”

Grady has already begun looking at some regional and national acts, but wouldn’t comment on what he’s eyeballing just yet. He’s interested in finding a couple of comedians to bring to town, as well as some visual and performing artists.

“It’s out there, you just have to find it,” he said, speaking of those acts. “That’s the great thing about my position. I get to work with all those types of people.”

In addition to the regional and national talent he’s interested in, Grady says he’d like to provide a way to support and showcase the local musical talent in the Boro.

“I’d love to work with local artists and talk about what they want to do,” he said.

As for marketing the Averitt and its programs, Grady plans to think outside the box.

“We really want to strengthen the reputation of the campus, so that regardless of what’s on the stage, people will hear Statesboro, and say, ‘Oh, they do really good work.’ You do that by bringing in good work, having that reputation and celebrating it,” he said.

Grady says that celebration should be not only about what the Averitt and its programs are locally, but also about reaching past the local area.

“It’s just time to get out of home. It’s a matter of communicating to a larger audience that this is a great place to come to. I want to do some quick things, some unique things, some out of the box things to kind of start letting people know what direction this organization is going, what’s possible here,” he said.

While the Averitt offers a variety of programming for all ages, Grady says he has heard rumblings from those in the 35- and 45-year-old age groups, some of whom have said the Averitt doesn’t provide anything for them. He says that street is two-way.

“As a patron, you kind of just have to show up to things that you kind of don’t know much about, because you’re going to be surprised. Some will be dogs. I’ve been to plenty of them. And some of them are just mind-blowing. They’re uplifting and just a really great production. You can’t tell by the name, you just have to keep going,” he said. “It’s time to open up a little bit. It’s not that expensive, it’s right downtown. Give it a shot and see what happens.”


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