‘An Exciting Time’

It’s an exciting time for the Arts Council for Chautauqua County and the Reg Lenna Civic Center, as well as the local arts community. That’s according to Nathan Arnone, Arts Council for Chautauqua County board president.

The organizations combined this week to create the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.

“This is an exciting time for both organizations as we merge into one entity,” said Arnone. “Both organizations work toward growing art programming. By merging, community resources can be maximized and used more efficiently, allowing us the ability to develop an even richer arts community.”

According to Vanessa Weinert, board member for the Arts Council for Chautauqua County, the Reg Lenna Civic Center has a 90-year history of delivering performing arts, cinema and productions from community organizations, and it will continue to expand these traditions with the merger.

“Many people already thought we were one entity to begin with,” Weinert said. “We work so closely together as two separate non-for-profits that through our continued collaboration we started to realize that we would be stronger as one. So, as we looked at the more than 90-year history of the Reg Lenna, and the more than 30-year history of the Arts Council, we found it a very logical conclusion to come together as one not-for-profit that can be the leading arts program in downtown Jamestown.”

One benefit of the merger is that the new organization, the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, will be able to apply for grants that the individual groups weren’t able to before.

“We have more staff, a larger budget and we’re put into a different bracket when it comes to grant writing,” Weinert said. “It also helps the local supporters of both organizations by merging into one budget.”

One of the first goals of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts will be to hire an executive director, which according to Weinert, will happen in September.

“Both organizations have been without an executive director for more than five years,” Weinert said. “Through this merger we’re finally able to pool our resources together to have an executive director who would oversee the staff. By having a leader we will be able to increase our revenue streams and really be part of this great downtown Jamestown renaissance that we see happening.”

One of the first events held following the merger includes the Broadway musical production “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” which will debut at the Reg Lenna Civic Center on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” had a successful Broadway run in the mid-1990s, and has remained the longest-running musical revue on Broadway since.

The show, which features nearly 40 songs which range from rock ‘n’ roll to rhythm and blues, is set in an idealized 1950s America. The revue features music by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, whose hits include: “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Stand By Me.” In addition to such hits, the show will also feature classics such as: “Poison Ivy,” “On Broadway,” “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “There Goes My Baby,” and “Love Potion No. 9.”

The Reg Lenna Civic Center is located at 116 E. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information call 484-7070 or visit reglenna.com.

“It’s going to be a fantastic show, and we’re going to continue to increase the programming in the Reg Lenna,” Weinert said. “We’re always going to be your local theater, however, we want to expand to other local acts as well as who is on tour and how we can make the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts part of people’s day-to-day lives in Jamestown – we want the Reg Lenna to be the place where people go to be entertained.”

In the past, the nonprofit Arts Council for Chautauqua County, which was founded in 1979, has hosted a variety of events which aim to provide area residents with access to the arts. The organization also presents arts education for regional youth, operates the 3rd on 3rd Art Gallery and is the owner of WRFA-LP. At the 3rd on 3rd Art Gallery, the Arts Council for Chautauqua County hosts a great number of events, including the annual observation of Support Women Artists Now, SWAN, which is held in March. The event spotlights area artists by featuring an exhibit, live music and an art market.

In September 2012, the Arts Council for Chautauqua County helped sponsor Jamestown Now’s Great Jamestown Chalk Walk, which put more than 20 area artists on streets of Jamestown with chalk-in-hand. The second annual Chalk Walk is set for Saturday, Sept. 14. The Arts Council for Chautauqua County also helped Jamestown Now host the second annual Sauce Off culinary competition and tasting event in June. And, it will support The Resource Center’s annual Art Life Conference in November.

Most recently, the organization hosted area students, teachers and community members during a presentation by Peter Gros, a wildlife expert, at the Reg Lenna Civic Center in June. The organization also annually hosts the Insomniac Competitive Film Festival in June. It teamed up with Willow Bay Theater of Jamestown to host theater workshops, helped Washington Middle School students produce short videos and hosted a holiday theater show in December 2012.

Plans for the merger are expected to be finalized by the end of summer. The merger was made possible by funding from the Sheldon Foundation, the Gebbie Foundation, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and the Lenna Foundation. For more information visit artscouncil.com.