We had the good fortune of connecting with Christopher Brazelton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christopher, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I think the arts have an incredible impact on our local communities. For us specifically, we like to look for opportunities to leverage the art that we are producing for specific needs. For instance, when we produced The Wizard of Oz we partnered with several other Foster Care agencies to create a “No Place Like Home” initiative to increase respite care providers in the county. For our Concert Series, the Lantern Series, we want to ensure that we are leveraging what is happening on the stage to create a positive impact through interpersonal connections and continued learning. We believe this leads to inspiration, thus cultural, economic, and social growth. This last year, nearly 1 our of every 5 first time visitors to the Lantern Series returned to a second concert or has purchased a ticket to an upcoming concert. Not a huge statistic until you learn what the Lantern Series is about, it isn’t exclusive to a genre or culture, it celebrates different cultures under one umbrella, so every concert is a new genre and culture. This means that almost 1 out of every 5 people that purchased a ticket again are choosing to leave the genre/artist that attracted them in the first place and return to a less comfortable genre. Giving these people a chance to learn a new perspective, and increase our shared lived experience.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I’m obviously bias, but I do believe we are changing what “small town arts” can look like. Through access, through application, through mediums, etc. First I think we try to find community needs and leverage art to address them, which is different in a suburb community than in a more urban area. Often too, there are fantastic initiatives to provide arts in rural areas… which is incredibly needed and important, but leaves a void for suburb communities. I think we are redefining that in some aspects, which is exciting. Second – Access has multiple meanings: geographically, many communities like ours (suburb) have an art center, but this is usually limited to 1 artistic medium (ie visual art, theatre, etc.). We are trying to provide that, allowing initiatives from different artistic mediums to take place ‘under one roof’. But in saying that it provides access in every artistic opportunity so that you don’t have to drive to a major municipal area. Another form of access is trying to remove barriers so that any of the community can participate. We started offering ASL interpreted shows and sensory friendly shows for those with these specific needs. As we open a gallery in our new visual art center we will also be providing times to help address and include, as well as seek other opportunties so that any person can have access to art. That is really exciting to think about. I’ve definitely learned a lot. Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be sure to include community input. I used to take the Steve Jobs approach of “the market doesn’t know what it wants” and justify myself for pushing through projects the way I saw fit. I’ve learned that while it can still be correct, you should use this method with caution. The more you can involve the community the more it adds to the story already in play, rather than just trying to rewrite it or start a new one. So I’ve been better about deciding when it is time to “invent” vs time to engage.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Our community as a whole is, in particular, supportive of what we do. But it isn’t just support, it is a greater sense of efficacy that I think is crucial to our makeup. I think our community really does live by “the rising tide floats all boats” and gets behind that in partnerships, goals, and execution. For myself in particular – I have an immensely daring and fierce staff. I’m so proud of them for all of their willingness, lack of fear, and constant drive to make our community better through art. Their passion is unrivaled and so much of what we do is only possible because of their tireless effort.
She Kills Monsters – Directed by Zach Stolz; Photos by Danielle Korman, Rebecca Blackwell, and Justin Spainhour-Roth ASL Interpretation – Photo by Rebecca Blackwell Shana Tucker and Fireside Collective – Alan Bernhardt