The long-awaited, and much debated, Herndon Cultural Arts Center has its first patron. Several actually.
The core group of people who have championed the center, which was identified as one of the keystones to the revitalization of the downtown area — along with the Fortnightly Library, Town Green and the Municipal Center years ago — has incorporated the Herndon Foundation for the Cultural Arts. The group's mission is make sure the last keystone gets put into place.
"This is not a membership organization. The foundation is not a social club," said Melody Fetske, the foundation's interim president. "It will be operated by a good number of volunteers … with the purpose to support the operation and building of the arts center. Anything that leads to that goal … falls within our purview."
ACTUALLY THE FOUNDATION was incorporated in April, but it has recently selected an interim board to help get the group up and running until a more permanent board can be chosen. The nonprofit organization is seeking nominations for its 13-member board of directors — consisting of six town appointed members and seven from the public at large. In addition, the foundation is looking for people to serve on the advisory board and as committee-level volunteers.
Once in place, the foundation will begin the task of seeking sources for funding to build the center and then find financial resources to help support the operation of the center, which would most likely include the hiring of an executive director, stage director and box office staff. Fetske said the job of the foundation will be to "put arts in the arts center itself, not to promote the arts."
"The building needs to be governed," said Ellen Kaminsky, the interim secretary. "The activities inside the building will be managed by the foundation. It will set the policies and procedures and will need to raise money to do that."
Kaminsky said she expects the center to have a similar arrangement with the Town of Herndon as the community center or golf course, where the government pays a portion of the operating costs and the balance is provided by the sponsoring entity. Currently, said Kaminsky, estimates for the operation of the center hover around $250,000-$300,000 per year.
EVEN THOUGH THE CENTER will be a public-private venture, the trick for the foundation will be to find funding resources that have remained untapped.
"What we're not trying to do is attempt to compete with existing arts groups in the town," Kaminsky said. "They have the Council for the Arts, which is an umbrella group for the arts. We have Elden Street Players in town. We're going to work carefully so as not to take money out of their pockets."
Fetske said it is too early in the process to identify those funding sources or to set goals and timetables.
"I'd rather do this right than rush to the table to put things out there," Fetske said. "The most successful board we can create is one that lives a lot longer than the initial fund-raising effort. To do that, we have to build a good board."
And Fetske does not see herself on that board, instead she favors nominating people who are "fresh and innovative."
"Any arts organization has to be constantly raising funds because public art, which we are dedicated to, has to be available to every family and affordable to everyone," said Les Zidel, one of the group's founding members. "What we want to say is right here, where you live, you can experience live theater, see a play or dance or whatever it is, and you don't have to spend over a $100 to go to the Kennedy Center.
"I'm in it for the long haul. I will do whatever the foundation needs me to do."