Opinion

VAA's process has been thorough, superb | Opinion

I, like every other Islander, received a copy of VAA’s Vashon Center or the Arts introductory brochure this week. During my nearly eight years as the executive director of VAA, I worked constantly on our community’s performance space issue, and as such possess a unique perspective that I wish to share with my fellow Islanders.

Much of the criticism toward VAA has been for failing to have adequate community input in this process. To that, I say the amount of community input for a new performance center on Vashon Island has been unprecedented.

Research and community input into this issue started in 1964, but I would say relevant study started in 1994 with the completion of a study by The Collins Group, which was commissioned by VAA and the Vashon Park District. The goal was to assess performing space needs and facility options.  It is at this point that I believe VAA’s timeline on its brochure with its subtitle, “Where it is today and how we got here,” should start — as this analysis looked at our existing use and facilities.

This study by The Collins Group determined that the Vashon High School theater was inadequate for many reasons and that the school’s demand for the space required an additional performing venue able to accommodate medium to large audiences for community-based performances. Its recommendation was to build a second theater connected to the VHS theater to share space (like set storage), but acknowledged it would not improve systemic structural problems. The new high school theater will provide an improved educational arts facility but will not resolve the demand for space.

My first week on the job, I was inundated with requests to address the performing space issue. So in May 1998 I organized a community arts forum to discuss VAA’s role and the performance space issue. More than 100 people attended this meeting, and from it emerged the Island Arts Council (IAC), which included individual artists, community members and representatives of every performing arts organization on the Island. Its mission was to conduct community outreach on these issues.

In 2001, a public arts forum was held, drawing more than 130 attendees, with “improved facilities” being one of five main priorities to arise. In 2002, we conducted a forum on cultural tourism. This forum drew more than 180 Islanders, and the main themes that evolved were to export (not import) art and develop existing facilities.

In 2003, VAA and IAC hired a firm to again review existing space based on current and future growth. It was determined again that our community simply needed another venue.

Evolving from this community outreach, the IAC encouraged VAA to create a new performance space and adopted a set of core values to help guide VAA:

recycle/preserve existing buildings;

focus on the needs of island artists and patrons;

don’t depend on tourism for financing;

maintain affordable ticket prices;

plan for shared use of building to reduce operational costs;

seek compatible business/education partnerships; and

conduct realistic business feasibility studies.

In 2004, VAA hired Carlson Architects and a business planner to determine a series of scenarios based on these core values and prepare a conservative business plan for each scenario. In four of the five scenarios, expansion of the Blue Heron Art Center was a key component, and the fifth called for its reconfiguration. The business planning proved that Vashon could sustain a new facility.

In 2005, a fundraising consultant determined that Vashon could and would support VAA’s work to construct and manage a new performing arts facility and VAA created The Vashon Endowment for the Arts as a crucial part of the capital campaign.

In September 2005, I resigned as executive director to start a new career and Molly Reed was hired as my replacement. While I was not on the hiring team, I believe Molly was selected in large part because of her experience running capital campaigns. I also believe the significant community process conducted during my administration gave the VAA board and new director a mandate.

It is no secret that we Islanders like process. In fact, some say there is so much process in Seattle that we never get anything done. I am very proud of the process and community input gathered during my administration and believe it was comprehensive and definitive.  I am also proud of Molly and the VAA staff and board for making such fantastic progress towards the goals that evolved were to export (not import) art and develop existing facilities.

In 2003, VAA and IAC hired a firm to again review existing space based on current and future growth. It was determined again that our community simply needed another venue.

Evolving from this community outreach, the IAC encouraged VAA to create a new performance space and adopted a set of core values to help guide VAA: recycle/preserve existing buildings; focus on the needs of Island artists and patrons; don’t depend on tourism for financing; maintain affordable ticket prices; plan for shared use of building to reduce operational costs; seek compatible business/education partnerships and conduct realistic business feasibility studies.

In 2004, VAA hired Carlson Architects and a business planner to determine a series of scenarios based on these core values and prepare a conservative business plan for each scenario. In four of the five scenarios, expansion of the Blue Heron Art Center was a key component, and the fifth called for its reconfiguration. The business planning proved that Vashon could sustain a new facility.

In 2005, a fundraising consultant determined that Vashon could and would support VAA’s work to construct and manage a new performing arts facility, and VAA created The Vashon Endowment for the Arts as a crucial part of the capital campaign.

In September 2005, I resigned as executive director to start a new career, and Molly Reed was hired as my replacement. While I was not on the hiring team, I believe Molly was selected in large part because of her experience running capital campaigns. I also believe the significant community process conducted during my administration gave the VAA board and new director a mandate.

It is no secret that we Islanders like process. In fact, some say there is so much process that we never get anything done. I am very proud of the process and community input gathered during my administration and believe it was comprehensive and definitive. I am also proud of Molly and the VAA staff and board for making such fantastic progress toward the goals so clearly determined from that process.

The community has clearly spoken. VAA has done its homework and is prepared to make a significant improvement to its facility for all of our benefit. It is time for all of us to come together as a community and support a facility that is commensurate with the prolific talent that makes us Vashon.

 

— Jason Everett, a Vashon firefighter, was VAA’s

executive director from January 1998 to

September 2005.

 

 

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Aug 24
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates