A good transition

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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As the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts prepares for a big transition, we salute the woman who has been involved with the center at one level or another from its infancy until now.

Susan Babiy Lawrence, SCCA’s executive director and chief executive officer, is heading into retirement soon, and Lorelei Costa will be taking over.

Lawrence was the center’s first employee in 2001 and assisted with the transformation of the building from the old Suffolk High School into the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. She left in 2004 but returned as development director in January 2009. She served under several other executive directors, including Jackie Cherry, who retired in 2018. Lawrence was named interim executive director following Cherry’s retirement, and later accepted the permanent position.

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Under Lawrence’s leadership, the center has undergone lots of changes, including in the past year, when virtually everything changed for everybody. However, she kept the organization going by virtually reinventing performances, art openings, fundraisers, educational programs and more.

While we are sad to see Lawrence retire, we wish her well and expect great things from her successor.

Costa is from Dare County, N.C., where she has served for eight years as executive director of the Outer Banks Community Foundation. Under her leadership, the foundation has almost tripled in size, both in annual grant-making and in endowment. She led relief efforts in the Outer Banks during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping hundreds of families with child care and educational needs during remote learning, and in 2019 after Hurricane Dorian, raising more than $1.5 million to rebuild hundreds of households across hard-hit Ocracoke and Hatteras.

Clearly, Costa is a woman who knows how to get things done. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and has a certificate in nonprofit management. She is a classical pianist and choral singer, making her a great addition to a community-based arts organization.

We know the community will welcome this transition as a positive one that will keep the Suffolk Center going for years to come.