In recent years, several South Whidbey non-profit groups have coalesced around Langley Middle School.
It wasn’t exactly a planned coming together, but it’s proving fortuitous to galvanize the city’s reputation as the performing arts hub of South Whidbey.
While the partnership is still young, the enterprising women who lead these organizations are already looking for ways to work together and capitalize on each others’ strengths.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, Island Dance, Island Shakespeare Festival and, most recently, Whidbey Children’s Theater now call the campus home.
Executive Director Stacie Burgua has led Whidbey Island Center for the Arts since 2000. She joined the group in 1997 and has watched it grow over the years into an organization that has its own performances, learning programs and is creating new partnerships.
As a non-profit organization, the business model is different from for-profit ventures but in the end the goal is the same — to grow and be successful. It takes work and dedication, but setting up shop in the right location is a big ingredient in the recipe of success.
“We have a remarkable community that shows how much this center means to them,” Burgua said.
Over the years, the center launched a series of art shows where local artists feature their work, and added more music festivals and performances.
Burgua hopes that embracing new ideas, programs and partnerships will result in continued growth for the center.
She said she wants to see new dimensions of performances with creative minds coming together to form innovative theater.
“It will be fun to see what unfolds,” Burgua said.
The center will be collaborating with Island Dance in their first production together in April.
“I love having (Island Dance) next door,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding experience to offer something new to the community.”
Burgua is hoping the center will also collaborate with Whidbey Children’s Theater in the future after they get settled.
Whidbey Children’s Theater has made one of its biggest changes to date — moving into the old middle school auditorium.
Led by Executive Director Cait Cassee, the theater has made much progress transforming the old school building into offices and classrooms, she said. The organization moved into the space in July.
The theater needed a space with more financial stability for them to manage. The space will help bring more programs and classes to students, she said.
The move also brings a lot of opportunity to work with the school district and develop new after-school classes for students to attend. Cassee said she was excited to work on classes for students who need more to do after school.
This is Cassee’s first year as executive director after being involved with the theater for seven years as a parent volunteer.
Cassee said she wears a lot of hats in her role as director, from communicating with the board and staff to juggling the day-to-day operations of a small organization.
Cassee has seen the program grow to include off-island participants this year.
Again, location is key. The theater is between WICA and Island Dance on the middle school campus. This is a happy situation that is a sign of good things to come, she said.
“Collaboration is right around the corner,” she said.
From recent economic forums, Cassee said it is clear that performing arts has a powerful economic impact on the Langley community.
“The theater exists because the community sees it as a valuable resource,” she said.