By Maria Saporta
At its 30th anniversary lunch celebration, Young Audiences did something a little different.
It announced to the world that it is changing its name — to Arts for Learning/ Woodruff Arts Center — on June 1.
Charisse Williams, president of Young Audiences, said the past year has been a great year to reflect on the organization’s past three decades, but also a time to look forward to its next 30 years. Young Audiences has been refining its strategy and working on how to best tell its story.
The new name, Williams said, better reflects the real mission of the organization, which provides arts learning experiences to more than 250,000 students a year across the state.
She also said that Atlanta is “following in the footsteps of several other affiliates” of the National Young Audiences association, which have also changed their name to better reflect their missions. NYA reaches five million students across the nation.
Young Audiences, one of four divisions of the Woodruff Arts Center, was not quite finished with breaking news on Monday.
Virginia Hepner, CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, then announced that the Center was creating a new position — an education advocate position — that would cross over all four divisions and the arts education initiatives at Young Audiences, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Alliance Theatre and the High Museum of Art.
“We offer arts education from pre-K to adults,” Hepner said, adding that there are about 40 arts education colleagues across the Center who will be better able to tell their story and coordinate their offerings. “We needed a strong, passionate advocate for our education work. We serve over 300,000 students a year, and we’d like to do more. The Woodruff Arts Center is the largest arts educator in the state.”
Then Hepner added that Williams will be the new education advocate for the entire arts center.
That means that Young Audiences, the soon-to-be-renamed Arts for Learning, will be looking for a new president to launch its next 30 years.
Dave Houser, who has been on the board for 28 years, is on the search committee, a role he has enjoyed during previous transitions. There have been a total of four executives of Young Audiences, including Hepner, who served as an interim during a time of transition.
A special feature of the luncheon at the Four Seasons in Midtown was to honor long-time board member Ada Lee Correll, who after Houser, is the second longest-serving volunteer on the board with a tenure of more than 25 years.
When asked how she felt about the name change, Correll was enthusiastic. “It now says what we are,” she said. “We are about arts and education.”