As we inch closer and closer to the massive–but exciting!–undertaking that is opening and running an arts center, we look to our friends at Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for some pointers and advice.
On Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, we hosted the majority of the Carolina Performing Arts staff here in Blacksburg.
We all gathered together to learn a little more about their organization, and then we broke into smaller groups by department for more focused question and answer sessions.
Afterwards, both groups took a tour of the new building. We hadn’t quite moved in at that point, but we were very close! Here, our executive director, Ruth Waalkes, tells everyone about the building before entering through the Turner Street entrance.
Here, both executive directors (Ruth Waalkes of the Center for the Arts and Emil Kang of Carolina Performing Arts) take a moment to pose on our stage.
We learned so much from each other that day: tried and true methods for running an arts center from them, and new ideas and different ways of thinking from us. But the learning didn’t stop there.
Earlier this month, on Thursday, October 3, 2013, Kacy McAllister, our box office manager, and Katy Baker Johnston, our house manager, took a trip down to Chapel Hill to shadow their audience services staff during the first night of a two-night performance, Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration featuring Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Memorial Hall at Carolina Performing Arts seats about 400 more patrons than our Street and Davis Performance Hall, so for our patron services team, it was helpful to see how the folks at Chapel Hill staff their performances and how they handle situations like seating latecomers.
Katy says she was most excited to see how Sarah Mixter, audience services manager at Carolina Performing Arts, organized her staff and the flow of the evening.
Everyone here is so grateful for the opportunity to learn from folks who have already been doing this job for several years, and we’re excited to take on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech celebrated another big first yesterday: our box office is officially open to the public!
Now, patrons have the option to come to the new building to purchase or pick up tickets, in addition to our online and phone sales services, already in place. Tickets for all of our performances, with the exception of the Philip Glass Ensemble and Compagnia TPO (which have already sold out), are available for purchase. Joining the line up for sale is the newly-announced event TEDxVirginiaTech on Saturday, November 9, 2013, which will be held at the Center for the Arts this year. Tickets for this year’s event, Beyond Boundaries, were released for sale yesterday.
To celebrate this major part of opening an arts center, we wanted to take a look back at some of the great work our patron services team has done over the past five months, since our subscription packages became available in May. Here are some of their favorite stories of working with our incredible patrons.
Shana Buzzard, Communications Assistant:
“One woman called and asked about getting the best tickets possible, because she has had her tickets for the Lively Arts series for almost 30 years and wanted to have these tickets for just as long–so they had to be the best! We discussed the seats in depth, and once we had decided on some that would work for her, she said, ‘You have just been so helpful. What was your name?’ When I told her, she got so excited! She started ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing.’ She couldn’t believe Shana was my name. She said, ‘If I would have had a daughter, I was going to name her Shana! Do you know what it means? It derives from the Yiddish and means “beautiful” today, but more importantly, it is the best compliment you can receive in the Jewish culture! Everyone says “Shanah Tovah” at the start of a new year as a blessing for a sweet year to come.’
“To beat it all, after she was satisfied with excitement about my first name, she asked me what my middle name was. When I said, ‘Carlin,’ once again, she got so excited! She said, ‘Carlin! How beautiful. Little champion,’ which is the meaning of Carlin! She was literally just enamored with my name and couldn’t get over it. I was on the phone with her for nearly an hour and probably the last 20 minutes were spent just talking about my name! I just couldn’t believe that she knew the meaning of both of my odd names!”
Kacy McAllister, Box Office Manager:
“A patron living in a rural area about 45 minutes away from campus purchased tickets over the phone. He needed directions too, but when I referenced our web site he said he didn’t have a computer. I was able to quickly provide him with specific directions to campus. He wanted to pick up his tickets in person, and while I thought I reminded him that the box office would not be open for in-person business for several more weeks, he showed up at the Virginia Tech visitor’s center just a few days later. The visitor’s center gave us a call and said they had a man there to pick up his tickets, and wanted to know where they could send him. We had yet to move into our new building, and our ticket stock hadn’t arrived for regular printing yet. But it just so happened to be the day that we were designing our print-at-home ticket option. Within minutes, we were able to finalize the design, e-mail his order to ourselves, and print them on the spot for him to take home.”
Another story Kacy loves: “A patron called wanting tickets for her family to come to Compagnia TPO. We only had three seats left, but she wanted five tickets for her, her husband, and their three kids. So I said, “I’m really sorry, but I only have three to sell.’ She said, ‘Well I guess I’ll have to leave my husband and one kid home.’ I said, ‘I’ll add you to a waiting list in case anything opens up.’ About a week later, a season subscriber decided they didn’t need tickets for that show. I called her back and was able to fit the whole family in–she was stoked!”
Are you a pleased patron? Do you have a story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Feel free to leave your stories in the comments.