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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - Averitt Center marks remarkable 12 years
Averitt Center logo

             Twelve years after opening the Averitt Center for the Arts in downtown Statesboro, the impact of the Center, the embrace of the Statesboro community and our neighbors continue to pleasantly surprise us all.
        For years, community leaders struggled with ideas of how to reclaim two dilapidated and potentially dangerous eyesores in the center of our downtown. It was with vision and courage the late Hal Averitt, then mayor, shared his idea of what would become a new centerpiece for downtown.
        His vision included so much more than simply renovating buildings. He inspired the community to create an economic engine that would drive future growth and breathe new life into our struggling downtown.
        Under the leadership of executive director Tim Chapman and his staff, the board of directors and an army of dedicated volunteers, the success of the Averitt Center and its footprint in our downtown is astonishing.
        The Averitt Center for the Arts now includes the Center for Performing Arts, which also houses the Whitaker Black Box Theater and the Rosengart Gallery and Gift Shop on West Main Street and the under construction Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts, located in the City Campus on East Main Street. Of, course, the Center includes the primary facility and Emma Kelly Theater downtown.
        Daphne Totten, outgoing president of the Averitt Board of Directors, recapped the incredible year of growth to community leaders during the Center's annual meeting in the Walnut Room inside Gee-Da's downtown restaurant. During the past year, more than 73,000 people participated in at least one Averitt Center event, class or production. An additional 32,954 people in the region were touched by the Averitt's Regional Outreach programs.
        One of the most impressive areas of impact is how they are introducing children in our community to the arts.
        "I have always believed the Arts makes kids smart," Totten said. "Art allows children to become more like themselves instead of more like everyone else. It is truly amazing the impact the Arts culture has been able to have in the last few years since launching our youth programs.
        "What began with 30 students has now evolved into a collection of programs that now serves over 500 children each week in our ballet, choral, strings, theater and visual arts programs."
        Jenny Foss, a past president of the Averitt Board, served as the nominating chair, introduced the new slate of officers and board members for the upcoming year for election. Elected were: Laura Wheaton, president; Burney Marsh, vice president; Jill Boykin, treasurer and Trish Tootle, secretary.
        Ralph Cowart, Darren Prather and Boykin were welcomed as new board members. Darren Prather will serve as the City of Statesboro's representative on the board.
        The Lodge, an organization affiliated with Willingway Hospital, was named "Volunteer of the Year" and the Statesboro Herald was named as "Business Supporter of the Year."
        Jack Orman chairs the five-year capital campaign that started in 2014.
        The Averitt has been able to expand the footprint of the Center in the downtown area due to the community's enthusiastic support of the campaign. The campaign is well underway with the completion of two of the three buildings that they hope to acquire, renovate and operate as part of the continued expansion of the center. The Thurman Lanier Building for Arts Education will be the final phase of the campaign.
        "No matter if you are an arts enthusiast or not, by becoming a member of the Averitt ‘Friends of the Arts,' attending an event or contributing to the capital campaign, you are investing in the future of our downtown and the next generation of leaders," Chapman said. "We cannot continue our success without this community's overwhelming generosity and support. Thank you all for helping us make the Averitt the centerpiece for arts education for the region."
        Patrons and donors are the key to the continued success of the Averitt. The annual membership campaign is underway now with memberships beginning at $15 for students and $50 for adults.

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