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Kristin Armstrong is executive director of the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.
By Donald V. Calamia
What is your theater's mission statement?
We are the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, a non-profit serving the West Michigan lakeshore community (and guests from across the United States!) by creating a more vibrant arts & cultural landscape and by acting as an economic sparkplug for the region.
What are your theater's short-term goals and objectives - such as for the current season?
The Saugatuck Center for the Arts offers a year-round roster of educational programs for adults and children, exhibitions and live performances, and in the summer we operate the Saugatuck Greenmarket.
Because we are young - only seven years old with about three-and-a-half years of consistent programming - we're still building brand recognition. We don't want to be one of the best kept secrets in West Michigan, so one of our top goals for 2010 is "brand enhancement" - in other words, spreading the word about who we are and what we do.
For the coming year, that means a variety of musical, theatrical, comedic, cinema and dance productions in our 400-seat theater.
We are home to Mason Street Warehouse, an Equity theater company that rents our main stage June-August, and we are also a primary venue for the Waterfront Film Festival (first weekend in June).
During the rest of the year, we present a broad cross section of arts and cultural performances.
What are your theater's long-term goals and objectives?
In the long run, the SCA wants to enhance Saugatuck's reputation as a hip, engaging arts community. Ditto for the entire West Michigan lakeshore region. (We have a dynamite mix of natural and arts/cultural resources over here). If we get it right, we'll be a magnet for creative folks who want the "best of both worlds" that West Michigan offers (i.e. cool art + design, good food, great natural resources, interesting jobs, etc.).
The SCA also wants to ensure that young people have opportunities to experience live performances - particularly kids in our lakeshore communities who typically don't have any exposure to live music, theater or dance.
If we want our communities to be alive with creativity, we have to build a respect - and desire for - the arts from the start or it may not happen later on.
What makes your theater different from any of the others in Michigan? What is it about you that is unique?
How's this for unique: When you attend an SCA show, you're actually sitting in a former pie freezer!
Actually, the Art Center was - in a previous life - a frozen pie factory! We made the huge freezer area into a sweet, 400-seat theater with fabulous acoustics and great temperature control, thanks to really thick insulation in the room. During three-and-a-half years of renovation, we carved out an exhibition hall, classroom, art studio, performance studio, lobby and our theater (plus the backstage areas). Because this was a redaptive reuse, the SCA is truly one-of-a-kind and it still has a cool industrial vibe and look.
Our Bertha Krueger Reid Theatre is notable because it's intimate at 400 seats, which also means there is not a bad seat in the house. As I mentioned, the acoustics are spot on, and we have comfy seats with cup holders (and we even let you take your drinks into the theater).
What is your programming philosophy? What type(s) of shows does your theater produce on its main stage - and why?
Because we're interested in creating a more vibrants arts and cultural landscape in West Michigan, we present a wide array of programming from cinema to dance to theater and including all types of live music. Ultimately we want to have something that will entice anyone to show up for at least one performance during the year!
We're also committed to quality, so we offer a really great line-up of entertainment (which includes Mason Street Warehouse theatrical productions during the summer months) year-round.
Past performers have included Colin Hay, Marcia Ball, Ballet Folklorico de Veracruz, Michael Feinstein, Dave Mason, the Wailin' Jennys, Hot Club of Detroit, the Kiyoshi Nagata Drumming Ensemble and Tab Benoit.
We also run a classical performance series each winter, and are beginning a cinema series in January (featuring documentaries).
What other types of programming, if any, does your theater offer - such as theater for young audiences, educational outreach, etc.?
The SCA is fortunate to have strong relationships with area schools (this is a significant focus for us since we are a community-based arts organization) and we are continually building partnerships with more school districts.
We offer two "festivals" yearly for K-12th graders: our Children's Film Festival in November, and our Cultural Festival in April. These are cost-free programs with the goal of giving kids in the lakeshore community opportunities to experience live performance and fine arts.
As I mentioned earlier, we also offer classes and workshops (for children and adults), lectures, gallery talks, and more year-round.
We have six exhibitions yearly (featuring everything from fiber art to sculpture), and also operate the Saugatuck Greenmarket June-October.
Does your theater offer any classes or workshops - either to the general public or to industry professionals? If so, what are they?
We offer a one-week theater camp for children each summer as part of our summer children's programming. It's a great "day camp" taught by a local educator -- kids love it.
Is your theater an Equity (union) company?
What is the philosophy you use to cast your shows? From what talent pool(s) do you draw from?
The SCA doesn't cast shows. We are a presenting organization, so we negotiate with performers to bring shows to the Art Center. We also rent the theater to organizations or performers.
Does your theater offer an apprenticeship or internship program? And if so, what is the criteria - and how does someone apply for such a position?
We offer internships in areas including communications, exhibition curation, children's programming - in other words, "Art Center related" opportunties as opposed to specific theater-related opportunities.
If you're interested in learning more, contact me at the SCA via firstname.lastname@example.org. We have possibilities year-round, and a great team to work with and learn from.
What else should we know about your theater, the current season, etc.?
Upcoming programs include"
Theater name: Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Business address (including zip code): 400 Culver Street, PO Box 940, Saugatuck, MI 49453
Performance address (including zip code): 400 Culver Street, Saugatuck, MI 49453
Web address: www.sc4a.org
Facebook fan page: Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Business office phone (including area code): 269-857-2399
Business office hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and evenings during performances.
Box office phone (including area code): 269-857-2399
Box office hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and evenings during performances.
In what year was your theater established: 2003
Current leaders or management team: Kristin Armstrong, executive director; Krista Reuter, program director; Kathy Timmer, house manager; Barbara Fiske, operations manager
Is your theater a non-profit, tax-exempt organization? Yes
Is your theater wheelchair accessible? Yes
During which months of the year does your season run? Year-round; Music, comedy, dance and cinema run September through early June. Mason Street Warehouse brings theatrical productions to our main stage June through August.
How many main stage productions do you offer each season? 16 one-night performances; MSW presents 3-4 shows.
How many OTHER productions or programs do you offer each season? During the summer months we run a Studio Series on Monday evenings when Mason Street is black. These "boutique" performances are in our 55-seat Performance Studio during July and August.
We offer classes, workshops, lectures, and gallery talks year-round. Exhibitions are also offered year-round.
How many seats does your theater have? 413 seats with cupholders!
What type(s) of seating is offered to your patrons (ex: general admission, reserved, etc)? Reserved
In general, what is the price range for your non-discounted main stage tickets (exclusive of service charges and other fees)? SCA shows run $20-$35. This past summer, Mason Street Warehouse tickets were between $31-$38 ($25 for Sunday matinees).
Are there service charges or other fees added to the price of the tickets? And if so, what are those charges and fees? No.
In general, what is the price range for your OTHER programs and services? Most of our lectures and gallery talks are free of charge. (Donations are always welcome!). Classes for adults have a wide price range depending on the topic. Kids classes are modestly priced - often $5 or $10 per session.
Do you offer subscriptions to your main stage season? No.
Do you offer discounts to senior citizens (and if so, what are the details)? No.
Do you offer discounts to students (and if so, what are the details)? Occasionally. Watch our e-mails and Web site for information.
Do you offer group discounts (and if so, what are the details)? No.
For ticket purchases, does your theater accept personal checks? Yes.
For ticket purchases, does your theater accept credit or debit cards? Yes, Visa and Mastercard.
ABOUT KRISTIN ARMSTRONG:
Kristin Armstrong has served as the SCA's executive director for the past four years. She brings 20 years of non-profit management experience to her position with a focus on development and marketing. Armstrong was also a freelance writer with articles in Michigan History magazine, Lake magazine, Shore magazine, and Valparaiso University's alumni magazine.
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