PERSPECTIVE: State Theatre plans for future success: accessible, inclusive, sustainable

Posted by on Dec 13, 2015

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Steven Barker. Eight months ago I chose to move to this beautiful county with the hope and plan that I could make a difference, along with Jodi Stone and the other staff members of the State Theatre. Since day one, I have used every tool in my tool kit that consists of a background in youth and family arts to fulfill the mission and vision of the State Theatre.

The mission of the State Theatre is to provide a community performing arts in a way that is accessible, inclusive and sustainable. The vision of the State Theatre is showcasing the arts to everyone.

In 2015, from the Piedmont Princesses event to this summer’s Free Family Feature Film Fridays to our mission-focused and diverse Fall Season at the State Theatre, we have worked for you. In the attempt to be inclusive, we looked at the data from previous years, and attempted to program a season that strategically brought a variety of acts that addressed multiple demographics of our population.

Personally, I am very proud of our educational field trip program for which we set the goal that eventually every Culpeper County school student (public, private or homeschooled) will have the opportunity to see a live theatrical performance for every year they are in school. We don’t see this effort as a luxury to entertain, but as a necessity to educate our students in empathy, perspective taking and creative problem-solving. This is in addition to any of the historical, literary or scientific insights they may gain from the productions’ content.

Beyond this educational program, we have plans to not only create meaningful community and education programs that are in themselves accessible, inclusive, and sustainable, but also strategies to ensure a commercially viable series of programming that will engage you, our patrons and patrons to be.

We have dialogued with a number of community members and from their stories better understand some of the perceptions that surround the theatre.

We are not here to dwell on the past; we are here to offer plans for future successes. Our overarching goal is to make the venue a commercially sustainable tourist attraction for the region, in other words the Premier Venue of the Virginia Piedmont. The past eight months have allowed us to examine our past, understand our mistakes, and create a plan in the present to move us into a successful future. We just need your help.

As I have stated in public forums, our plan is to have dedicated series of popular acts in the genres of country and bluegrass, popular music, family entertainment and local community talent. Our plan also includes an increase of financially viable educational programming which will increase our revenues. Additionally, we will bring back revenue streams in advertising to allow us to feature our business partners in the economic development of the region.

With the addition of many volunteers, including Amy Bowling, we can also focus on our not-for-profit need for continual and sustained fundraising and development. As such, we will be able to address an engine of the organization that has never been properly attended.  Beyond the generosity of individuals and corporate gifts, we have plans to apply for and receive a number of grants to assist in our educational and community programming.

We will plan to do our best as professionals in the arts to deliver on our mission and our vision for the long run.

Again, we need your help. We can put our plan into action if all parties give us this gift of redemption. We are not asking for charity, we are asking for an investment in our community through contributing to our campaign.

We ask the people of Culpeper and the surrounding counties to give what they are able to allow us to continue into 2016 and beyond. We ask the town, the county and the region to financially commit to the State Theatre, not as a short term fix for our current financial situation, but as a long term strategy to help economically develop the region as an even more attractive location for current and future residents and employers.

All the current staff leadership can offer in the implementation of our plans is to “do our best.” Best practices put into action through careful research, diligent analysis, and determination to succeed. These are principles I personally learned while preparing for my Eagle Scout award, and they are the foundations on which I have built not only my life, but my professional career as well.

If given this chance to turn the State Theatre into what it is supposed to be, we will work for you with thrift, integrity and courtesy to showcase the arts to everyone and make the State Theatre accessible, inclusive and sustainable for years to come.

Steven L. Barker