Although it seems as though Darke County Center for the Arts 2017-2018 “Arts Count” season just got started, in reality the season is two-thirds over, which also means that planning for DCCA’s next season is well underway. As DCCA officials mull over themes and programming choices appropriate for celebrating the organization’s 40th anniversary next year, multitudes of differing factors must be considered, many in direct opposition to one another.
For example, DCCA has earned a loyal following that strongly supports the arts and the organization; for DCCA to continue to succeed, recognition of the wants and desires of those supporters is essential. However, in order for DCCA to continue to evolve and grow, new audiences must be developed by meeting the needs of those not yet being reached. As the King of Siam says of the dilemmas he confronts in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I,“′Tis a puzzlement!”
When choosing artists, DCCA must also consider fulfillment of its mission to provide cultural enrichment, a somewhat stuffy-sounding term that pretty much defines the difference between entertainment and art; however, much disagreement can ensue around definitions of both those words. Defining art is a subjective enterprise depending upon life experience and emotions which intrude upon unbiased objectivity; how one feels has significant impact on perceptions of art. When DCCA long ago started branching out to present artists outside the realm of classical music, much grumbling and consternation arose; but, as the enthusiastic sold-out crowd who took in last week’s concert by bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent and the Rage will attest, classically enriching performances are not limited to musicians who play only Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms and their cohorts.
DCCA is blessed to have access to historic Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall as its chief venue for presentations; this gem of a building adds prestige to the arts presenter’s reputation at home and is appreciated and admired by the artists who perform there. However, Memorial Hall has just over 600 seats, limiting the revenue that can be earned through ticket sales and thus limiting the amount that DCCA can expend for artists’ fees. Local sponsors contribute greatly to the cause, allowing DCCA to continue to present an impressive slate of shows at economical ticket prices, but when even semi-big name performers ask at least $100,000 plus expenses for one show, you can readily figure out that you will not be seeing Taylor Swift in Greenville anytime soon.
Local audiences have demonstrated an unwillingness to pay the ticket prices asked at big city venues to attend a local show, regardless of the fame and talent of the artist. Adding to the conundrum for DCCA, local residents often do not respond when a big name is brought to Darke County, sometimes frustratingly citing their incorrect reasoning thusly: “If they were any good, they wouldn’t come here.”
Skill, talent, and hard work do not always equate to achieving fame, especially in today’s highly segmented musical environment where the top-drawing performer in a certain genre can be unknown outside of that fan base. DCCA can be trusted to never knowingly present shows that do not live up to high standards, striving to book only skilled artists who will provide high quality programs that uplift spirits as well as provide an entertaining evening out whether or not the artists have yet achieved fame and fortune. Simply put, DCCA does not book junk.
Diversity is essential to effective programming, not only because different things appeal to different people, but also because enhancing cultural enrichment inherently requires exposure to a broad spectrum of artistic disciplines. Choosing affordable excellent diverse performers who will appeal to DCCA’s base and attract a wider audience while meeting various grant requirements, and then negotiating fees and mutually agreeable dates to close the deal is no easy task; successfully fitting all of these puzzle pieces together can be quite a challenge. But DCCA has been successfully resolving these puzzlements for almost 40 years, so our community should happily anticipate what their 40th anniversary season will bring.
Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.