Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laura Rawlings Resigns as Arts Council ED

Laura Rawlings takes Roanoke College position.^


Laura Rawlings has resigned as executive director of the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, taking a job as director of The Roanoke Fund at Roanoke College. Rawlings had been the director of the council for three years through some turbulent times since the resignation of Susan Jennings, who heads Roanoke’s Public Arts Department.

With state funding drying up and the economy at its worst in decades, the council had to be inventive to raise operating funds. Under her direction, the Arts Council instituted its 40/40 fall show, featuring 40 days of arts and culture and just recently it kicked off its first ArtView—the brainchild of Rhonda Hale of the council—and it has been pronounced a success, though turnout was relatively low. It was the first such event featuring artists from Roanoke’s sister cities and interest among artists, especially, was high.

In a story that was scheduled to run in December’s FRONT, writer David Perry quoted Rawlings as saying, “One of the challenges we have as a service organization is that we don't have a way to earn income. We can't do what the symphony does and sell tickets.”

According to Perry’s story, another challenge is persistent rumors of imminent demise, which Rawling says inhibits fundraising. Finances are stable, she says, and the future shows promise. Ralwings insists the council is solvent: “Our budget has remained stagnant for about 20 years. I guess the good news is that we've been able to maintain what we do and have developed some new programs for our members.”

“Ms. Rawlings was employed by The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge three years ago to increase awareness of the Arts and Cultural venues and activities in the Greater Roanoke Region,” said Phil Sparks, President of The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. “During that period she was very successful in that effort by developing and coordinating various programs that promoted all of the arts in the region. On behalf of the Board of Directors, member organizations and artists, I want to wish her the very best in her new endeavors as she now turns her attention, enthusiasm, and energy towards Roanoke College.”

The Arts Council's total annual budget is about $250,000, 16 percent of which is in-kind services, including those provided by the arts council's landlord, Center in the Square. Other sources of revenue include program underwriting (41 percent), contributions (24 percent), fundraising (9 percent), member dues (9 percent), and services and fees (3 percent).

“We're not one of those organizations that gets a lump sum in any one area,” says Rawlings. “We get little pots of money from many sources.” A sizable chunk—about 35 to 40 percent—goes toward staff, two full-time (Rawlings and Hale), two part-time. The Arts Council has kept a strong member base of visual artists and has even reached out to writers as members.

Says Rawlings, “For the most part we have maintained our memberships. That to us is a stamp of approval that we still are relevant and are helping them.”

(Editor Dan Smith is an Arts Council board member. Photo by David Perry.)

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