The renovated Gaillard Center opens in April 2015, but already a whole new arts organization with a grand mission has been set up in Charleston, and its early efforts are setting the stage for the future - and ruffling a few feathers.
The Gaillard Management Corporation was established to manage the operations, bookings and related administrative functions of the performance and exhibition halls and related facilities of the new Gaillard Center, scheduled to open in April 2015.
Members of the board appointed by Charleston City Council:
Jonathan Green, artist
Martha Rivers Ingram, chairman emerita of the board of directors of Ingram Industries Inc.
Harry Lesesne, executive director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy
Catherine Marino, educator
William A. Moody Jr., certified public accountant
Keith Waring, owner of Charlestowne Associates
Members appointed by the Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation:
Renee Dobbins Anderson, former associate dean of UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School
John Chalsty, former chairman of Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette
Luther Cochrane, retired chairman and CEO of BE&K (now KBR) Building Group Inc.
Christopher B. Fraser, president of Avison Young
David Ginn, president and CEO of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance
Joseph P. Riley Jr., mayor of Charleston
Charles S. Way Jr., chairman of the board of The Beach Company
Members appointed by the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau:
Nella Gray Barkley, president and co-founder of Crystal-Barkley Corporation
Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Charles Patrick, attorney
The Gaillard used to be a utilitarian municipal auditorium that sat about 2,700. Opened in 1968, it was a cavernous, institutional space with mediocre acoustics.
But it quickly became an essential venue, indeed, the primary performance space in Charleston, hosting the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Ballet Theatre (now defunct), Charleston Concert Association presentations and the bigger productions and concerts organized by Spoleto Festival USA.
Spoleto Festival General Director Nigel Redden often has said that without the Gaillard, the multidiscipline spring arts extravaganza probably would not have landed in the Holy City in the first place.
"It served its purpose," Redden has said.
Last year, demolition of the Gaillard got underway, leaving but a skeleton of the original structure for contractors to work with. The auditorium is being transformed into a proper horseshoe-shaped, 1,700-seat concert hall; the exhibition space is being upgraded to make an 18,000-square-foot space divisible and better served by up-to-date facilities.
The project costs $142 million. Half of the money comes from public sources (a general obligations bond, tax increment financing, accommodations tax and New Market Tax Credits), and half comes from private donors (the private fundraising effort, kickstarted by a $20 million gift, is still underway).
The building itself has stirred some debate: Should this capital project be a top priority for the city? Is this the best use of such a large sum of money? Will the Gaillard Center provide sufficient physical space and amenities to arts organizations?
But it is the recently formed Gaillard Management Corporation that now is receiving increased attention. It was formed earlier this year as a sister organization to the Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation. The foundation is in charge of fundraising; the management corporation is tasked with overseeing use of the facility and running its various logistical and physical operations.
The management corporation has a 16-member board of directors and an executive committee of five. There is some personnel overlap between the two groups.
The foundation will remain active until the full $71 million is in the bank, according to Vice Chairwoman Renee Anderson, who also sits on the board of the management corporation. Once the final dollar is raised, the foundation will shut down, but that could take up to 10 years after the Gaillard Center opens in 2015.
A bridge loan of $51 million was secured to ensure that weekly construction bills would be paid (the foundation pays half the cost, the city pays the other half). So far, none of the loan money has been used - fundraising has been sufficient to satisfy construction obligations - so no interest is being paid yet, according to Anderson and Luther Cochrane, chairman of the management corporation and member of the foundation board.
The financial arrangement with the bank gives the foundation some fundraising flexibility, Anderson and Cochrane explained. They suspect that some donors won't write checks until the building opens for business. Some donors like to provide gifts in exchange for specific recognition: a name plate on a seat, a sponsorship, that sort of thing, and that can be hard to sell until the seats are installed and the programming is in place, they said.
Right now the Gaillard is a good story, a dream in progress, Cochrane said. "But as the building finishes, it becomes more real and attractive (to donors and patrons)."
Donors are given a five-year term to pay large gifts; that's why the capital fundraising phase might take a decade or so, Anderson said.
Asked if they were close to their goal, both board members demurred, saying it's important to complete the "quiet phase" and "leadership phase" of fundraising first. This is when major donors are wooed, and up to about 80 percent of total funding is secured, they said.
After that comes the "public phase," when all are welcome to make donations, large or small. This is likely to begin in January 2015, Anderson said. If the foundation can show that community stakeholders have made significant gifts, this will enhance fundraising prospects for the final phase.
"If they think it's worth it, we should consider it, too," goes the thinking, Anderson said. The public phase raises the least amount of money, but it's the most important part of the effort because "it allows (members of) the community to feel that they own the building."
Cultural focal point
Meanwhile, the management corporation is working with California-based B Squared Consulting (employed by the city of Charleston) on a temporary basis to put the operational pieces in place, engage local arts organizations and begin the process of booking the Gaillard Center for 2015 and beyond. A search is underway for an experienced executive director.
The new Gaillard will be considered a "multitenant" activity center that accommodates various presenting organizations, not only the Gaillard Management Corporation, Cochrane said.
The hall has its limits. "It's not really set up to directly compete for Broadway business," he said. Most of that will still go to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. The dimensions of the Gaillard stage - 42 feet deep, 80 feet wide and 35 feet high - can't easily support large-scale opera productions, big Broadway shows or grand circus presentations, for example.
It's a matter of striking a good balance between variety and quality, Cochrane said. The former might be constrained in order to satisfy the latter. "This is right-sized," he said.
Jason Nichols, director of the 77-year-old Charleston Concert Association, said his presenting organization has long depended on the Gaillard and has provided local audiences with first-rate performances by orchestras, ballet companies, recitalists and others. Nichols is worried that a new presenting organization will compete with his.
"Why set up two adversarial groups doing the very same thing?" he asked.
The closing of the Gaillard for renovation on the heels of the Great Recession of 2008 has challenged the Concert Association significantly, Nichols said. Concerts moved from a 2,700-seat hall to the Sottile Theatre, which seats 750. Yet the performers he booked appeared only once, often during the week. This resulted in an economic strain that forced Nichols to reduce staff, cut his budget and limit concerts to about four a season.
In response, the organization has expanded its mission and broadened its strategic approach, Nichols said. It plans to remain an anchor tenant at the Gaillard, but also may put together an "Encore Series" of concerts that uses other venues, such as the Sottile, the Dock Street Theatre, Memminger Auditorium, the Charleston Music Hall and a couple of church sanctuaries. The Encore series would focus on local and regional performing artists.
Nichols said a reconfigured arts community could result in some unwanted competition for patrons and donors, especially if multiple groups (such as the Concert Association, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Spoleto Festival) are presenting similar classical music and dance performances, but that he hopes good coordination and scheduling distribution across the calendar will mitigate those risks.
Yuriy Bekker, concertmaster and acting artistic director for the Charleston Symphony, said the renovated Gaillard hall likely will give the orchestra a boost. In the new space, the CSO could mount bigger concerts and possibly expand the Masterworks series, which currently includes six shows a season.
More activity by the CSO will benefit both the symphony and the Gaillard, he said.
"The two organizations in some ways are dependent on each other," Bekker said.
What's more, a world-class hall is likely to attract international attention, making it easier for local presenting organizations to draw highly acclaimed groups and soloists, he said. The key to avoiding artistic cannibalization is careful and constant coordination, Bekker said.
Michael Smith, the symphony's newly appointed executive director, said the hall itself could provide reason for curious people to attend a concert, and that could lead to some growth of the patron base.
Smith said he's not too worried about competing with major symphony orchestras that might come to town. Part of the charm of the Charleston Symphony is its local focus, he said.
But it will be important to know what other groups are programming, he added. Few concertgoers will want to hear the same Tchaikovsky symphony twice in a month.
"We're very happy to be at the table with them (the Gaillard Management Corporation) working this out," Smith said. "This is the time to do this."
Cochrane said he expects the Concert Association, Charleston Symphony and Spoleto Festival to be "resident" arts organizations that benefit from preferential scheduling, joint marketing efforts and reduced facilities costs.
A new ticketing system that the Gaillard Management Corporation will implement will rely on a flexible technology platform that can communicate with diverse third-party ticketing systems while at the same time collecting data that can be used to improve the way the Gaillard and local arts groups operate.
Cochrane said the new Gaillard "needs to be the community's (cultural) focal point," a destination not only for arts patrons but also students. "It's the largest classroom in Charleston," he said.
Anderson, who spent decades as a high-level administrator at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said the board is eager to collaborate with programs such as Engaging Creative Minds and other educational initiatives in the Lowcountry.
An education outreach arm at the Gaillard, called Future Founders, already has been established. Its goal is to cultivate interest in the arts among young people throughout the tri-county area by ensuring that every student gets to see something at the Gaillard at least once a year.
Additionally, the performance and exhibition halls can host workshops and other special events that serve an educational purpose, according to management corporation board members.
Anderson and Cochrane said their priority was to get the Gaillard up and running, but that they were already thinking about long-term strategy.
"If we can do this right, we can use the opening of this facility to set an example for collaboration," Cochrane said. "The Gaillard Management Corporation is the vehicle to demonstrate that more is more."
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook/aparker writer.
The Gaillard Center is under construction and scheduled to open in April 2015.×
The Gaillard Management Corporation is in charge of fundraising for the Gaillard project.×
David M. Schwarz Architects A view of the planned exhibition space.×
David M. Schwarz Architects A view of the Gaillard Center from the George Street perspective.×
David M. Schwarz Architects A look at the interior of the concert hall.×
A view from the balcony of the concert hall. The new hall will have a traditional horseshoe shape, 1,700 seats and improved acoustics.×
David M. Schwarz Architects The grand staircase in the lobby of the Gaillard Center.×
David M. Schwarz Architects A view of the new Gaillard Center from Calhoun Street.×
David M. Schwarz Architects Inside the concert hall, looking from the stage.×
David M. Schwarz Architects In the lobby.×
David M. Schwarz Architects The Gaillard Center lobby.×