Suffolk Center sets 2011 plans

Published 10:31 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New season: Paul Lasakow, executive director for the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, has already set to work on developing a lineup for the center’s next season. The key, he said is making sure the plans are “relevant” to the community.

With a new calendar year beginning and the planning for the next season already under way, the staff of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is thinking a lot recently about relevance.

“We try very hard to make sure what we do is relevant in the community,” Executive Director Paul Lasakow said this week.

Relevance drives the decisions of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts staff as they plan which classes to offer, which shows to run and which programs to support.

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According to Lasakow, every decision the SCCA makes about programs, classes, artwork and shows begins with an assessment of its relevance to the Suffolk community.

“The common denominator is relevancy,” said Lasakow, “Is this relevant to Suffolk? Will this be relevant to the lives of the people here?”

The interests of community members are another factor that influences the SCCA’s programming decisions.

Lasakow begins planning each season and scheduling classes by talking to people in the community.

Because the SCCA is in its fifth season, Lasakow said, staff members have an idea of the classes folks in Suffolk like to take. From there, he said, the SCCA branches out and experiments with new ideas.

Lasakow welcomes suggestions from the community and takes them into consideration when planning each season and scheduling classes.

“We are not trying to be the Chrysler Museum,” he said. “We are Suffolk’s cultural arts center.”

The staff must then consider costs, what is available and what is accessible and what is realistic for the SCCA.

“I’d love to see the Rolling Stones there, but it’s just not going to happen,” Lasakow said.

When planning for each season, Lasakow must keep his budget in mind. Partnerships with organizations like the Virginia Arts Festival and sponsorships help alleviate costs to the SCCA. The center also receives a large infusion of cash from taxpayers via the city budget.

“It’s a matter of balance. Ticket sales never pay for acts. We can’t expect to make money off performing arts,” said Lasakow, “We do these things affordably with as much class as we can muster.”

The SCCA tries to keep prices down, so that everyone in the community is able to enjoy and learn from what the SCCA has to offer. Educating the public and reaching out to the community through visual art, performance, workshops and classes are primary goals of SCCA.

“We are primarily an educational organization,” Lasakow said. “That is our main thrust.”

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is in the process of putting together its next season of shows, programs, artwork and its series of classes.

Lasakow said he and his staff hope to put together a season that will broadly appeal to Suffolk — with free summer concerts, community theater productions, workshops, summer camps, theater camps, classes, art exhibits and more.

Events and classes for the current season are planned through May. The center will announce events for the upcoming season beginning in February.

“We have everything under one roof,” Lasakow said. “You can take a class, watch a show, eat dinner, have a wedding reception, see a gallery show, and buy a gift all in one place.”