New Executive Director Rhonda Hale: "I think it makes sense that the Taubman would become a significant part of the team that provides these opportunities to our regional artists and community at large."
The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge has hired Rhonda Morgan Hale as its executive director, replacing Laura Rawlings (who went to Roanoke College), in a move that is seen by the board of directors as a dramatic statement of confidence and a change of direction.
It certainly had my support--as a board member--because Rhonda is just what the Arts Council needs at this point: a strong, dynamic leader with creative ideas, the work ethic of a coal miner and outstanding community connections.
Rumors have been rampant of late about the health of the Arts Council, an organization that supports area artists and writers in a number of ways, and the quick hire from inside of Rhonda Hale is an effort to put a stop to those rumors and to show that the Council has some pretty significant plans of its own for the coming months.
You might be wondering why it is important for the Arts Council to survive in a city that has a $66 million museum and all that implies. The Arts Council is the direct representative of local and regional artists on a number of issues and it helps present their work, educate them and give them the best face possible before the consuming and admiring public. Each of the arts organizations in this region has a specific purpose and the Arts Council is one of the most important of them all because of its uber-local nature.
Rhonda has been with the AC for four years and has been responsible for a 60 percent growth in artist participation. As Art Services and Arts Education Director, she was primarily responsible for ArtView recently at the Roanoke Civic Center, one of the best-run and most attractive events in recent months. It featured regional artists and artists brought in from Roanoke’s Sister Cities on display and teaching for nearly two weeks.
Rhonda has been an executive director in the past in Montgomery County, has run a small business and has been a creative consultant. I've watched her work from up close and she's a dynamo: smart, decisive, resourceful, assertive and an honest-to-god coalition builder.
Says board president Phil Sparks of the unanimous selection: “Rhonda will bring new enthusiasm, energy and a strong desire to be inclusive to the member organizations, artists and to the AC. Her success will depend greatly on our willingness to roll up our sleeves and get to work supporting her efforts. The fact that we have hired Rhonda doesn't mean that the AC doesn't have financial challenges; we do and those issues must be addressed in the coming weeks and months as we work together … The fact that it has been that way for 30 years doesn't mean that it has to stay that way.”
Rhonda says, “I am enthusiastic about working with our board to develop an up-to-date strategic plan to address the current and changing needs of our artist and organizational members and arts community.
"The arts community has seen a shift in the way it operates and it’s important that we stay relevant and are meeting the needs the changing climate offers. An increased interest in partnerships and collaborations is key to showing responsibility with the limited monies and resources that are available which makes our role in convening and facilitating meetings with artists and community groups to discuss topical issues and challenges increasingly important.
"Equally important is the need for the Arts Council to become an even stronger advocate for the arts in our region through increased presence and participation in legislation. Working with other organizations (arts, cultural and educational) and artists of all disciplines is the most important task of the Arts Council… Supporting the work they do is at the heart of all we do because of its direct impact on our community (our children, cultural wealth and our economy).
"My approach to the Taubman [Museum of Art, which recently promised cooperation with other arts groups, rather than working against them] will be one of ‘how can we better serve you?’through collaborations, partnerships, advocacy, etc. ArtView opened doors with several of our Sister Cities for artist/arts exchanges. I think it makes sense that the Taubman would become a significant part of the team that provides these opportunities to our regional artists and community at large. The rich cultural experiences that will be gained through these interactions are immense."