Thank you, and good-night

Published 9:35 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Paul Lasakow
Guest Columnist

Not quite three years ago I arrived in Suffolk. Newly hired to help guide the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, I felt I had been bestowed with an awesome responsibility to steward an organization that was a vital part of an equally vital community.

Although I knew little of what to expect during my first few days there, I was no less than astounded at the outpouring of welcome and hospitality I was shown by more kind folks than I can now count or even recall. Walking down the street to lunch, my hand would be shaken by a complete stranger, saying that he had seen me in the paper and wished me the very best; the grocery store clerk might mention how happy she was to see me in her line; and the fact that I would be accepted into the gracious fold of the Rotary Club seemed a given.

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Many invitations were extended to eat lunch, meet for coffee or come to dinner. As a native of Alabama, I could only surmise that somehow, in making the short drive from Norfolk to Suffolk, I had passed back to the South from my childhood, and once again found the generous hospitality that I have so long missed.

That sense of welcome stayed with me during my stay, and one of the many things I now miss about being a part of Suffolk is the sheer graciousness of its people. For that and for the many other gifts I received while there, I remain humbly grateful.

As with all of my past professional homes, I sincerely hope that I left the organization in better shape than when I first walked through its door. In the case of the SCCA, I believe that many good things came during my stay.

Our staff worked tirelessly (and successfully) to shore up uncertain finances, to reach out to the entire community, and most of all to clarify the Suffolk Center’s mission as a place that exists to improve lives.

While I no longer speak for the Center, I believe that I can safely say that the organization is of one mind in its determination that it exists to bestow the self-confidence and pride that blooms with creative accomplishment, to serve as a welcoming destination for visitors to Suffolk, and help bestow hope where there is only the nihilism of poverty.

The arts, the “cultural experience,” the advocacy of the creative — these are part and parcel of the SCCA, but they are truly only vehicles traveling toward the ultimate goal of enriching the lives of all whom it can reach.

I deeply regret that life’s circumstances required that I turn my attention elsewhere. Of the many organizations I have been associated with during my career, I have never so strongly garnered such a personal sense of fulfillment in the good that came of our efforts.

It was truly an honor to be associated with the Center, its staff, board and members, and although I will no longer be there every day, I will maintain my membership, advocate the organization in any way I am able, and be anything but a stranger within its walls.

An arts organization, in its highest form, is a service organization. The staff and board of the Center have done wonderful things in incorporating this philosophy into the fabric of its day-to-day works.

In recognition of that, I stand, enthusiastically applaud and wish the Suffolk Center a long run and a smash success.

Paul Lasakow is the former executive director of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.