Suffolk Center reaches campaign goal, announces executive Transition

Published 8:42 pm Monday, May 29, 2023

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The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts reached its goal of raising $4.5 million in donations for renovations to its historic building. 

The organization has also announced the forthcoming departure of Executive Director Lorelei Costa Morrow, who will be leaving the Suffolk Center in July to lead the Suffolk Foundation, according to a Suffolk Center news release.

“The Suffolk community understands the great value that the Cultural Arts Center brings to our city,” said McLemore “Mac” Birdsong Jr., who was the chairman of the Suffolk Center’s capital campaign committee, “and our citizens have been extremely generous in helping us with these repairs to our facility.”

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The building that houses the Suffolk Center is 100 years old, and the exterior walls and windows have been leaking. Repairs are needed to keep the Suffolk Center safe, functional and flourishing, the news release said. Located in the heart of downtown, the Suffolk Center is owned and run by a nonprofit organization, and is home to two art galleries, a 500-seat theater, dance and pottery studios, art classrooms, a ballroom for special events, office space, a restaurant, retail space and more.

Fundraising for the repairs began in late 2019, when TowneBank Foundation and Birdsong Corporation each pledged the first grants for the incipient campaign. When COVID-19 hit a few months later, fundraising was put on hold through the pandemic. Once Morrow joined the staff in 2021 and pandemic restrictions eased, fundraising began again in earnest, with significant support from the City of Suffolk and many local families, businesses and foundations, according to the release.

Repair work commenced in July 2022 under the leadership of CW Brinkley, Inc. Construction and Dills Architecture. Windows are being replaced throughout the building, as well as flashing and lintels above the windows, and cap flashing around the roof, the news release explains. To further protect against leaks, the exterior brick is being sealed with a white Tnemec coating that is both waterproof and breathable. This change to the building façade was approved by the Suffolk City Council in February 2022.

In addition to these measures to prevent leaks, the project includes the repair of ceilings, walls and floors, the release stated. The pergola walkway will be regraded and covered this summer, and the sound, seating and lighting are being upgraded in the theater.

“Work is now complete on the northeast wall, which was the side of the building with the worst damage,” said Morrow, “and we’re about halfway through the work on the front wall, facing Finney Avenue. Come August we’ll start on the pergola walkway and the southwest wall of the building.”

Repairs to the building envelope should finish in January. A popular venue for weddings and other special events, the Suffolk Center also has planned improvements for the landscaping and grounds in 2024.

With the Suffolk Center’s accomplishment of its fundraising goal, Morrow will be transitioning this summer to lead the Suffolk Foundation, a local community foundation. Prior to the Suffolk Center, Morrow was the director of the Outer Banks Community Foundation for eight years.

“Board members are grateful for Ms. Morrow’s stewardship over the past two and a half years,” said Jim Oliver, chairman of the Suffolk Center’s board of directors. “She has led the organization with energy, dedication and professionalism. The board and I will miss her leadership and the skills she brought to the executive director position, but we wish her well in this new chapter of her professional life.”

Oliver said the board will start a search for Morrow’s replacement.

“The executive director role is of utmost importance to our community, and in the coming weeks, the Suffolk Center board will be launching our search for our next executive director.”

Details on the search and information on how to apply will be announced on the Suffolk Center’s website at 

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is located at 110 West Finney Ave.