WAC's Trotter Still Growing Arts, Artists and Audiences

by Serenah McKay  on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 9:52 am  

As COO of the Walton Arts Center, Terri Trotter gets to help shape the future of the arts in Northwest Arkansas.

Currently in the planning stages of a $20 million expansion that will add about 30,000 SF to the WAC complex on Fayetteville’s Dickson Street, a big part of her job is working with architects, theater planners and others involved with the project. The expansion will include a “significant” increase in office space and the lobby, and make the adjacent Starr Theater into a larger performance space with its own lobby.

After starting at the WAC in 1998 as vice president of communications, Trotter also had taken on development duties as vice president of external affairs when she was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 in 2005. Promoted to COO in 2009, she supports CEO Peter Lane with organizational strategy and internal operations as well as working on the arts center’s growth plans.

The biggest issue with the current 55,000-SF facility is a lack of space in the lobby and backstage, Trotter said. Because of the tight quarters backstage, the Starr Theater often is used for dressing room and storage space when large touring shows come to the main stage.

In her office behind the WAC main building, Trotter proudly shows the conceptual drawings depicting the size and scope of the expansion project.

“We’ve been planning in our minds for this for six or eight years, so seeing it on paper is definitely a highlight for me,” she said.

The drawings also aid in communicating to the public what the WAC’s leaders have been envisioning all these years.

“The process of planning for future growth has been challenging from the standpoint of how do we tell our story,” she said, “bringing people along on that path, telling them what the vision is and how it’s going to benefit Northwest Arkansas.”

And that’s crucial because of the major fundraising campaign that lies ahead.

“That’s going to be important that the community understands what the vision is and buys into it, because we’re a nonprofit organization,” Trotter said. “We rely on the support of so many people in our community to do what we do.”

The goal is to have the project completed by 2015, she said.

While that may seem a long way off, Trotter points out that between raising the money, completing the design, and doing all the permitting and then the actual construction, “it’s a very aggressive timeline.”

Trotter also works closely with the WAC’s resident companies: TheatreSquared, Trike Theatre, the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas and the Northwest Arkansas Community Creative Center.

“I love having those groups in our space,” she said. “It’s so exciting to see the creativity and the growth of the performing arts community in Northwest Arkansas.”

Out of that collaboration grew one of her favorite projects so far — the statewide tour begun last year of a production of “Digging Up Arkansas.”

“It’s a performance that we commissioned and created along with Trike Theatre that talks about Arkansas history, and since really from before the doors to this building were opened, education was a cornerstone of what the organization wanted to be.”

She said they decided to do the project after hearing from teachers how difficult it is to teach Arkansas history to third- through fifth-graders.

“It’s tough to make it engaging and to find unique and interesting ways to involve the students, and so it’s addressing a real need,” she said. “It’s an amazing product, and such a wonderful piece of theater. And then to be able to not only perform it in Northwest Arkansas but to take it around the state, that’s been a first for us and that’s really, really been a highlight for me, to be part of an organization that has that kind of dedication and that kind of reach into children’s lives.”

Trotter serves on the national board of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, but with three children, ages 6, 10 and 12, she says her life away from work “is very much about being a mom.”

She’s also busy with PTO and active at her church, First United Presbyterian, and its efforts to address hunger issues in Northwest Arkansas.

Trotter’s passing on her passion for the arts to her children, and said she loves bringing them to events at the WAC.

“All my kids really enjoy the arts, and that’s fun for us as a family.”



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