08/27/06 — Arts Council director will retire Sept. 8

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Arts Council director will retire Sept. 8

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on August 27, 2006 2:03 AM

Alice Strickland, who has served as executive director of the Arts Council of Wayne County for the past 25 years, will retire Sept. 8.

Pat Setzer has been hired to serve as interim director for six months as the Arts Council's search committee continues to look for a new director.

Mrs. Setzer has done work -- professional and/or volunteer -- for the Wayne County Public Library, Stagestruck: The Young People's Own Theatre and Center Stage Theatre, to name a few.

She was originally asked to apply for the permanent position of Arts Council executive director, but had other projects she was working on. She offered to work part time for a limited period of time, Sutton and the search committee agreed, and the board of directors approved the decision this week.

"While I cannot hope to fill Alice's very capable shoes and provide the leadership she has provided for so many years, I do hope to participate in a field I enjoy very much and will offer whatever skills and experience I can bring to (this) wonderful organization," Mrs. Setzer said.

An interim is being hired because Mrs. Strickland had hoped to retire by June 30, said Bryan Sutton, search committee chairman. "She has stayed on longer to give us more time."

Mrs. Strickland is retiring due to family health concerns.

The Arts Council is continuing to accept applications for executive director.

Mrs. Strickland became involved with the Arts Council 27 years ago as a volunteer. A year later, she was hired as gallery director and then became executive director.

During her time, the Arts Council has experienced a number of achievements, including buying its own building. For several years, it rented space in Herman Park Center but, in August 2000, purchased the former Centura Bank at the corner of Spence and Ash streets. Soon after, the adjoining garden was purchased and, in 2001, the second floor was renovated.

Joyce Duncan, who was board president the year the decision was made to purchase the building, said Mrs. Strickland believed the Arts Council should have its own place and that the former Centura Bank "was a good property and a good building. She wanted to pursue it, we did, and it worked out."

At 12,000 square feet, the building provided four times as much space as the Arts Council had at Herman Park Center. Having the building made it possible to have more classroom space, more room for exhibits and a kitchen for catering.

"Alice is such a special person and such a lover of the arts," Mrs. Duncan said. "She was wanting to provide for Wayne County a place for the arts. If you met her and got to know her, you could see that within her, within her smile and within her personality. It just came out how much she loved the arts and Wayne County, and the children particularly."

"Alice inspired us to see, to believe and to love art," said Claudia Waters, who served as board president when the building was purchased. "She has an unerring barometer of what's creative and interesting and important in her field.

"While working with her, I found her instinct and intellect never failed her. Alice will be missed as a director, but thank goodness we still have her as a mentor and supporter."

Among Mrs. Strickland's other achievements was the role she played in the establishment of The Young People's Own Theatre, which was later expanded and named Stagestruck. Mrs. Strickland assisted in bringing volunteers from within the community together to see how they would respond to having a children's theater, helped in a project in which a group of children wrote and performed in their own play, "Pickle Ice Cream" and, satisfied the community was ready to support a children's theater, hired a staff member who was charged with making it happen.

Mrs. Strickland said one of her joys has been watching the affiliate groups through the years.

"Twenty-five years ago, many of them were just getting started," she said. "I have watched their growth, maturity and artistic achievement. That is exciting to see."

Those that eventually ceased to exist made "a significant contribution" while they were here, she said.

Though she is retiring as the Arts Council's executive director, Mrs. Strickland plans to remain active in the arts field. She hopes to volunteer ... and to continue to watch the arts grow.

"We're in a wonderful space, and the potential is so great for growth and good things," she said. "We can have such an impact on arts and culture. I want to see that happen and be a part of it."