Last Friday’s “State of the Organization” event at the Tri-PAC began with a tasty array of food from area restaurants and caterers. Thank goodness Dean Foster, wine genius and fellow blogger, was there to steer me in the right direction at the wine table. (Definitely look for the guy with the full, white beard at similar events around town & don’t be shy about asking for help!) It was also a pleasure to meet Tom Abbott, publisher of The Mercury, who slyly suggested that someone write about the event. Positively!Pottstown was already on the case! So, here you go…
I knew the program would be informative in nature, updating the community on how far the organization had come and where they’re headed, but I had no idea how entertaining it would be. Musical selections from the upcoming production of Ragtime, The Musical alternated with information about the importance of the arts and the actual achievements of Tri-PAC, and the format was just right. In fact, it was downright fun. And inspiring, especially the voices rising in song, filling the main stage up to the rafters.
Speakers included Bill Kiesling, singer & Spouse Extraordinaire; Deborah Stimson-Snow, Artistic Director; Martha McGeary Snider, PA Policy Advisor for Arts and Culture; Marta Rubin Kiesling, Executive Director; Jordan Shoemaker, student, singer, actress; and Tri-PAC board member and actress Lisa Waltz, a Spring Ford and Carnegie Mellon grad, now living and working in L.A.
What grabbed my attention at the start was Deborah Stimson-Snow saying, “There’s a kind of truth happening here… There’s an opportunity every day to do something true.” Yes – that’s what live performance is all about – an artist or group of artists sharing a search for some kind of truth with an audience. This is a noble thing.
The social impact of the arts is now a well-documented phenomenon, and Martha McGeary Snider, Policy Advisor Arts and Culture for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, hit the high points. A strong arts presence can be a stabilizing force in neighborhoods, providing a common destination, a shared language and a place for diversity to flourish, which is exactly what’s taking place at the Tri-PAC.
Marta Rubin Kiesling, Executive Director, provided key statistics from the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2010. These numbers are essential to understanding exactly what Village Productions has achieved, and it’s pretty astounding:
– Over 14,000 audience members
– Over 150 performances
– Over 800 students
– 64 classes
– 11 staff
– Participation of hundreds of volunteers
– Educational outreach to more than 1,000 students
Educational offerings run the gamut, from children’s classes to voice, guitar, comedy improvisation, piano, dancing, directing, script analysis and group singing. There’s something for every one in every age group.
In looking toward the future, Tri-PAC will soon be offering subscriptions. They’re continually finding ways to increase student and community outreach, and they hope to add a retail and concession stand in the lobby area. Perhaps the most important project will be the façade improvement, giving them greater visibility and creating a landmark location on High Street. Representatives from the state are coming to town today to meet and consider a funding request for the façade improvement project. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. (Feel free to post your support for that project right here!)
The success of the Tri-PAC is a KEY ingredient in the revitalization of Pottstown’s downtown. As McGeary-Snider pointed out early in the program: The arts mean business. And she added, “There is a distinct relationship between engagement in art and engagement in civic life.”
In the end, it all comes down to personal responsibility. Strengthening the arts in your hometown is your civic duty. It also happens to be fun and uplifting. Sign up for a class. Volunteer. Get a group of friends together and see a show. A lively downtown will be the result of the artist, or audience member in each of us, coming out from behind the curtain, or taking our seat in the darkened theater, joining other human beings on a journey for some kind of truth.