A lasting legacyPublished 9:07pm Saturday, December 29, 2012
There’s a real sense in which the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts would not exist without the tireless efforts of V.M. “Barney” Annas. Mr. Annas, one of the greatest early champions of renovating the abandoned Suffolk High School and turning it into a regional center for the arts, died Dec. 21 at the age of 85 following a long illness.
His friends and others who were involved in the arduous work of planning and raising money for the facility recalled Mr. Annas last week as a tireless fundraiser who embraced the vision of what the broken-down old school could become to Suffolk. He was instrumental in helping to raise the $8 million in private funding that helped make that vision real.
“He was one of the greatest cheerleaders for Suffolk,” recalled Betsy Brothers, a fellow Suffolk High School alumnus and former member of the arts center’s board of directors. “He always loved and adored Suffolk and loved Suffolk High School, and was instrumental in bringing the cultural center project to focus for a lot of people who didn’t know about it.”
Mr. Annas, a former stockbroker who grew up in Suffolk, was personally invested in the project, having donated to the fundraising effort while soliciting contributions from people in Suffolk and elsewhere in Hampton Roads. His passion for the arts also benefited the Virginia Opera and the lobbying group Virginians for the Arts. He was honored for those efforts by the Cultural Alliance of Hampton Roads and the Virginia General Assembly.
But it is right here in his beloved hometown of Suffolk — in a beautifully restored old school on Finney Avenue that now serves as the city’s cultural center — where Mr. Annas’ love of the arts is most evident. His commitment to establishing and cultivating it ensured a lasting legacy.