Darke County Center for the Arts Artistic Director Keith Rawlins is stepping down from the post that he has filled so well for the past 15 years, supplying dependably outstanding artists to perform for local audiences and thus attracting an ever-broadening demographic to DCCA productions.
It seems like only yesterday that DCCA’s executive board interviewed a cute, charming, and somewhat diffident young man, all dressed up in his Sunday best, who obviously knew a lot about music and the performing arts; I was among those who participated in that interview, and ultimately one of those who chose him as the best candidate from a small field of highly qualified candidates for the newly created position. And I remember being told by one of the stalwart supporters of Town and County Players who had worked with our new employee on some Versailles productions that Keith might be unconventional at times, but “you can depend upon him to get it done.” And he certainly did!
DCCA’s artistic director takes care of all contact with the artists, including arranging for hosting those who are booked, contracting for sites and dates of events, supervising technical production, and representing the arts council at all times. Although the position is part time and some days little attention to DCCA’s needs are required, the job sometimes demands working 24/7 for days on end. And attention to detail can include many unexpected tasks, such as arranging for Riders in the Sky yodeler Woody Paul’s quart of cream in the dressing room, or seeing that an artist’s laundry gets done. But Keith always managed to get it done!
While he readily admits that one of his shortcomings is his inability to say no, this trait is an asset for his ability to work with others whom he truly wants to please, whether they be artists, agents, his co-workers, DCCA board members, or DCCA’s audience. He worked hard to provide more than was expected of him, and usually exceeded those expectations; however, the Cincinnati native acknowledges that he didn’t do it alone. His high regard for the crew who actually makes it possible for artists to be seen and heard at Memorial Hall is sincere and well-deserved, as is his admiration for the executive directors who supported his big plans and new ideas.
As former executive director Julie Strait explained, Keith kept making more work for himself, coming up with exciting programming prospects that didn’t fit into the budget or even developing a whole new series of performances showcasing talented artists in small local venues offering an inviting social setting — the highly successful Coffeehouse Series. Then the executive director had to figure out how to stretch the budget so that Keith’s plans could come to fruition while Keith worked with artists and their representatives to make it all happen — and he got it done.
DCCA’s Arts In Education program taking artists to perform for students in all grades in every local public school has always been a gem, but under Keith’s care, the program sparkled even brighter. Many of the artists that appeared in the schools were featured in DCCA’s Artists Series or in a Coffeehouse Series performance (also attracting students to buy half-price tickets to once again enjoy the artists who had so entranced and entertained them at their schools — a real bonus benefiting everyone involved.)
Keith, who earned recognition throughout the state for his earnest dedication to the arts, is rightfully proud of what DCCA has achieved during his tenure, and happy that he assisted in the organization’s growth and success. He says that his decision to leave a job he truly loved, one that he says gave him many gifts and numerous opportunities, is bittersweet, but “I feel like I’ve won the Super Bowl and it’s time for me to go while we’re on top, allowing fresh faces and new ideas to come in, so that the organization can continue to grow and evolve.” The community can truly be grateful that the retiring artistic director so successfully got it done, benefiting our citizens and the arts with his good work.