Forget location; it's all about planning, planning, planning


Aug. 21, 2009 at 3:21 a.m.
Updated Aug. 22, 2009 at 3:22 a.m.

Every year in South Texas, you can expect certain things. The summer will be hot and humid. Every winter, the whooping cranes will return. And somewhere there is a concert, festival, art opening or theater production going on.

The cultural calendar is almost always full in the region but it doesn't just happen by magic. Whether it's a small art exhibit opening or a weeklong, city-wide festival, it takes time, effort and money to keep Victoria cultured.

Take, for instance, the Christmas-season staple of "The Nutcracker," performed each year by the Victoria Ballet Theatre. On average, the cast is composed of 140 adults, teens and children, with close to the same number of volunteers working behind the scenes, said assistant director Kelli Klein.

With nine shows over four days, casting and rehearsals for the giant production begins as early as August.

"It's a big show and we need a lot of help. But everyone does a great job and all the community comes together," Klein said. "It always turns out really nice."

One of the biggest events of the year is the Victoria Bach Festival, a weeklong celebration of classical music each June. Going on 35 years now, the festival brings in world renowned musicians from across the state and world, as well as featuring local musicians.

As one of Victoria's largest and longest festivals, planning begins immediately after and often even before the current festival is over, managing director Nina Di Leo said.

"We've already begun the process and now we're doing it more in earnest," she said the Monday after the 2009 festival had ended. "We begin planning with the big finale and then work out the chamber concerts from there."

Putting it all together requires lots of man hours and dedication, and is a full time job for Di Leo. But the festival couldn't happen without help supplied by many generous volunteers, she added.

Sept. 1 is the typical deadline for final programming and by October, the final roster is typically done. By January, promotion and public awareness efforts have already started.

Putting on such a large show doesn't come cheap, however. Ticket sales only account for one third of the cost of the festival, Di Leo said. The rest of the funds come from a balance of small individual donations, a few large individual donations from key supporters, several corporate donations, grants from national and state arts organizations and fundraisers.

At any time during the year, new art exhibits are constantly opening in Victoria and the surrounding counties in museums and art galleries. From local craftsmen to nationally recognized artists, putting together these shows is a skill in and of itself.

Kerry Rhotenberry owns the Cuero Courtyard Gallery, which opened in October 2006. About every five weeks, the gallery holds exhibit openings. Every third Saturday of the month, an acoustic jam session is held with local musicians.

"It's a constantly evolving process," she said of the planning involved. "I meet people in lots of different ways and one artist always leads you to another one. It all happens from conversations and connections with people, and from there we work out the details: the when, where, how."

Rhotenberry added that she works about three months in advance when it comes to art exhibit plans and has an outline done a year in advance.



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