New CFTA Executive Director Has Plans to Take Organization to Next Level

photo from Center for the Arts/Facebook.

Regina Wilkerson Ward, the new executive director at the Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro, has hit the ground running. She is determined to build on the strong footing that her predecessor, Patience Long, put in place before her.

“Our mission continues to be to enhance the quality of life in our community by providing cultural and economic enrichment through the arts,” said Ward. But what she plans to do is to add more accountability and more sustainability.

For the last several years, Ward has been working as a Regional Philanthropy Strategist for Bethany Christian Services, covering the east coast of the United States and their global entities. She has 13 years of experience in fundraising, nonprofit strategic growth and community leadership. Her focus is on development and implementation of fundraising strategies while growing the depth and breadth of current successful programming.

“I grew up in a dance studio in Murfreesboro,” said Ward. “I have been doing choreography in community theater for years…I know the arts enrich communities and help them grow.” 

Center for the Arts provides creatives with a safe place to develop their skills; a place for artists to display and sell their art in their gallery; a place where more than 1500 students take theater and voice classes; a place where more than 500 volunteers donate their time as actors, designers, technicians and house coordinators; and a place where more than 30,000 patrons come to see between eight and 12 performances per year.

Ward plans to create new and updated policies and procedures around both main stage and youth productions, to increase training for all team members including for emergency situations, to enhance operational and program budgets, to procure an updated CRM and ticketing system, to develop an actor’s guild, to increase partnerships with other cultural and educational organizations, to increased curriculum guidelines and planning for all educational programming, to create a detailed fundraising campaign program, to develop a well-maintained marketing and stewardship campaign, to put additional focus on the experience of patrons and volunteers, and to maintain and upgrade facilities to make the experience more equitable for all.

“I believe tight procedures help with growth,” said Ward.

More than 100 people auditioned for their upcoming performance of “Sound of Music.” That is, as Ward said, a lot of Marias and a lot of Liesels. She wants to make sure that everyone is being given a fair and equitable chance at getting a part. There is a core of actors who are involved in many of the theater’s productions, but there is also an increasing number of new talents coming to the auditions.

An opportunity she hopes to grow is school outreach by getting school children to see live theater performances to introduce them to the art form and to link up with the performing arts program at Middle Tennessee State University.

Reaching out to other cultural arts organizations is another goal. For example, she hopes to find ways to partner with both the Hawaiian and Native American dance troops that have contacted her. Adding dance to the performance opportunities at CFTA is dear to her heart.

Updating the mechanical systems and the building itself is also on her list of plans. She, like others in the past, have long been wanting to find an off-site downtown location in which to store costumes, props and set pieces. “Preferably something with a storefront as we rent costumes and props to other theaters,” said Ward.

She would also like to move wheelchair entry to the front of the theater, as anyone in a wheelchair has to enter the building from the back, through backstage.

Her strategies to bring her vision to fruition includes nine, 12- and 18-month fundraising campaigns, creating a content calendar for the marketing of shows and stewardship of community advocates, increased visibility in the community where the mission is shared by bringing actors ‘out of the theater,’ re-organizing space for volunteers and backstage areas for better operation, and the creation of surveys to gage patron experience and capture data for ongoing communication.

She feels that a quote she found from actor, filmmaker and creator of “Euphoria,” Sam Levinson puts her plans into focus: “Don’t watch the clock, do what it does. Keep going.”