Arts Council of Wayne County

Georgia Dees, front right, is the new executive director of the Arts Council of Wayne County. She is pictured with her staff, front left, Emily Figueras, gallery director; back from left, Karen Kestler, office manager; Amy Hobson, assistant gallery director; and Racheal Pollman, bookkeeper.

Although Georgia Dees has no background in the arts, she agreed to fill in as the interim director of the Arts Council of Wayne County back in August.

On Monday, she accepted the position of executive director.

The board of directors offered Dees the job because of all she’s done for the Arts Council while serving in her interim capacity.

“In just six months under Georgia’s leadership, Arts Council programming has expanded and attendance at events has grown and diversified,” said Alice Huneycutt, council board chairwoman. “Her knowledge of this county and the people who live here, combined with her marketing and communications skills, made her a great fit for leading this organization into its next chapter.”

Huneycutt said the board received a tremendous amount of positive feedback since Dees has been at the Arts Council.

“We are grateful that she has agreed to stay,” she said.

Dees, who has a background in communication and public relations, said she wasn’t sure she would accept the executive director position at first.

“I really didn’t know, quite honestly, if I wanted it,” she said. “I came in because they needed somebody to help (as interim director), and I was available.”

But after being at the Arts Council for the past six months and seeing the people who come in every day, Dees changed her mind.

“You’re around people that are doing what they love,” she said. “People are learning new things that make them feel good and build their confidence. It’s fun to get into something that’s different where I can feel like I’m making a difference.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me this is a perfect fit for me. I’ve never really thought about it, but maybe it is.”

Since starting at the Arts Council, Dees brought back a lot of the children’s classes during the holidays, including a gingerbread house workshop, cookie decorating and making 3-D Christmas trees. She said all the classes were full.

Under her leadership, the Arts Council is doing its second Arts Academy for both children and adults, with a variety of classes from watercolor and anime to knitting and sewing.

“And if people have something they want us to teach, call us and let us know,” Dees said. “We’ll see if there’s enough interest to generate that class.”

The Arts Council has also recently added a voice instructor, whom Dees said has been extremely popular.

In addition, Dees wants to expand the Arts Council throughout the county.

“I met with Julie Beck in Mount Olive to talk about how we can work with them to do some art things downtown,” Dees said. “We really want to reach out into that part of the county because we are the Arts Council of Wayne County, not the Arts Council of Goldsboro. I would like to see a satellite office in Mount Olive.”

Beck is president of the Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce.

Dees also reached out to the town administrator of Fremont, Barbara Aycock, with an interest in expanding art programs into northern Wayne County.

“Getting those kids’ programs back and doing more outreach in different parts of the county are two of our biggest things,” Dees said.

Dees is also trying to bring back jazz music to Goldsboro. If the Arts Council can get some funding, she’d like to see some big names in jazz come to Wayne County.

“And we want to try to find a better way to serve the folks who come to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base,” she said. “A lot of them come in and don’t know anybody and don’t have things to do. We’d kind of like to make this an outlet for them to come. If we could get them involved in something art-wise, that’s good, especially single folks that are here and don’t have anything to do.”

A new event that Dees started is a once-a-month pizza and paint event for youth, 13 years of age and older. They can take their own art project to the Arts Council or use supplies that are there and paint while eating pizza.

“That’s something to give kids something to do in a safe environment,” Dees said. “We want to build on that.”

The main thing Dees wants to do as the Arts Council’s director is to let people know the organization is here and its interest in getting ideas of what opportunities the council can provide to the community.

To do all of this, the Arts Council needs more funding in the form of a fund drive or grants.

“I don’t have that art background,” Dees said. “But you just need to know how to keep the place operating, come up with new ideas and get the word out about it. I could learn the art part of it.

“I’m glad that I came in and helped when I could. And I’m glad that I liked it enough to stay and that they liked what I was doing.”