Niswonger Center Celebrates 5th Anniversary
Performing Arts Center in Greeneville, Tenn.
December 13, 2009GREENEVILLE, TN — The Niswonger Performing Arts Center (NPAC) in Greeneville will celebrate its 5th anniversary on Thursday, Dec. 17 prior to the Rockapella Holiday concert at 7:30. At the anniversary reception from 6-7:15 p.m, members of the NPAC Advisory Board will greet guests and offer light refreshments.
Allison Weems, this year's Advisory Board President, says, "In addition to all of our board members, we hope that anyone with tickets to the concert will attend the reception. This is our way of saying thank you for five great years."
History of NPAC
The inaugural event sponsored by NPAC was "In The Mood" held on Dec. 16, 2004. Executive Director Darrell Bryan says, "That was an exciting electric night, and I don't know if anyone could have predicted how busy the center has been and what an impact on economic development we have become. There have been literally thousands of people in this building just the last few weeks, which makes for a tremendous asset to our community."
Bryand continues, "Our Grand Opening act for NPAC was the talented Gladys Knight, and we have hosted such fine entertainers as Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Beach Boys, the Gatlin Brothers, Ronnie Milsap, Air Supply, Tony Orlando, Mercy Me, Earth Wind and Fire, and Percy Sledge, just to name a few. We have also been able to bring to this area such Broadway productions as 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,' 'Mame,' 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' and Little Women The Musical.'
The first year NPAC offered nine professional performances, and this past year they had 30 professional performances. "The first year," laughs Bryan, "we had to seek and find talent, and now we have talent buyers calling on us daily. And one of the main reasons for this is the talk of the entertainers themselves. Not very many, if any of them, have left here without complimenting the facility and the staff, and these people tell others about the venue."
This past year Bryan shared that there were 150 different events at the center.
When asked what has been accomplished in the past five years at NPAC, Bryan says, "That's easy to answer. We have provided top quality affordable entertainment to Greene County and the surrounding area. We have worked hard to provide a well-rounded assortment of programs here at NPAC, and we have strived to offer reduced prices this year. We have been able to offer programs for students that they would never have had the opportunity to enjoy otherwise.
"We are continuing to uphold our mission, which is "to perpetuate a commitment to the performing arts for Greene County and our neighboring communities. A flourishing arts and cultural community enhances our quality of life, produces community pride, encourages cultural development and understanding and broadens the education of children.'"
When asked what he considered the strengths of NPAC, Bryan said, "We have large comfortable seats in an auditorium that, with a capacity of 1135 people, offers top caliber theatrical lighting and sound – we are told all the time we have the finest venue in Northeast Tennessee.
"We are introducing the arts to students with the hope that they carry the appreciation of the arts throughout the rest of their life.
"Through the support of local businesses and the Greene County Commission we are able to offer programs for students that are geared to their curriculum. Every school in Greeneville and Greene County has been given the opportunity to see a show of some type. Also, many students have performed on the NPAC stage through their special school programs.
"Because of our facility, the GHS Chorus and Greeneville High School Band have been able to host regional events here, often bringing more than 2000 students to the center for a weekend.
Reasons for Success
"Volunteers are the key to success in the performing arts center. We have individuals who serve as ushers, who help us deliver posters, help us do bulk mailing, parking, concessions, technical help, security and other occasional duties. We have an experienced, qualified staff, and they work to make each guest's visit a pleasure.
"We do have a 22-member Advisory Board plus 45 ex-officio members who offer special expertise in the various forms of art."
"One of the community events we have been the most proud to host here," says Bryan, "has been the Naturalization Ceremony. If you haven't ever attended one of these ceremonies you really should. The folks who have studied and gone through the process of becoming naturalized are so proud. It's very rewarding to see these new citizens as they accept their paper work and carry their flag back to their seat. It's really hard to describe the emotions one feels."
The building is also being used frequently for leases by nonprofit organizations. For example, sites Bryan, "we are extremely proud that the group Kansas performed here raising more than $35,000 to benefit a cancer victim. The Takoma Regional Hospital Foundation has held a fundraising event here each year, raising thousands of dollars for their hospital.
"The Kingsport Ballet presents the 'Nutcracker' here each year, and the Miss Greene County Pageant has been held here since its resurgence. Coming up in the spring, CASA will be presenting 'An American Doll Fashion Show' at NPAC, and they feel this event will draw people from Knoxville to Abingdon.
What are challenges or goals for NPAC? "We would like to be able to attract younger audiences by offering entertainment geared to young adults," says Bryan, "but the fees are much higher and popular groups often will not perform at venues of our size. We continue to work on this.
"Raising money in the current economy can be challenging, but we continue to call on individuals and businesses and tell our story. Our mission and goals are as important now as they were when we began."
Impact of NPAC
"More than 50,000 persons attend the various activities annually, and to date we have had visitors from 36 states. From 40 to 50 percent of people who attend our shows," says Bryan, "are from out of town, and several times the past year it was more than 50 percent. That translates into people using local hotels, motels, restaurants, buying gas, convenience stores, those kinds of things that impact the local retail."
In a recent study by Americans for the Arts, they determined that there is an average spending of $27.79 per person, per event – in addition to the cost of admission. The findings also reveal that non-local attendees spend twice as much as local attendees, demonstrating that when a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards.
"Also, NPAC uses local businesses as much as possible – hotels, motels, restaurants, advertising outlets, and much more. Sometimes getting ready for shows we employ 30-40 people in the back for technical and labor work. In addition, we are impacting the community with an appreciation of the arts."
" Rockapella performed here in 2008 to raving reviews and we are bringing them back with their all-new Christmas show. It will be held Dec. 17.
"We are also researching the possibility of offering camps for students in the summer in the area of drama, dance, or song."
"In conclusion," says Bryan, "I think the future is bright and the opportunities limitless for NPAC. We want to get more people involved in all aspects. I encourage people to give me a call at the business office and get involved – the number is 423-638-1328."