About half of Verna Everitt’s time as executive director of the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts has been spent navigating a pandemic, something she wasn’t expecting when she signed up for the role three years and three months ago.
Her last day with the arts organization was Dec. 8, a quiet exit during the South End’s power outage.
“When I first started, the first year and a half, we were just growing the organization,” she said.
Everitt expanded events, with the addition of daytime programming, summer programming and even a film festival. Most recently, the organization embraced “happy hour” before some of its events.
This expansion ended up paying off, especially once the pandemic encroached enough to close WICA’s doors for a few months.
“It was important that we were growing because we had to shrink when 2020 happened,” Everitt said.
WICA lost half its patrons by default, since seating capacity was limited by about 50% in the theater.
Yet the show went on, as Everitt invented new ways to bring in audience members. Tables were added to the theater, allowing for drinks and snacks to be consumed during events.
During her time with WICA, Everitt cited the creation of the Whidbey Island Film Festival as being one of her favorite accomplishments. As a former film producer, she said this medium of art is closest to her heart.
The festival, now in its fourth year, is a full-fledged, two-week event that draws a crowd from all over Western Washington.
She worked alongside Artistic Director Deana Duncan for much of WICA’s expansion in programming, crediting their relationship as helping to further the development of WICA.
“We were great partners and we accomplished a hell of a lot together,” Everitt said.
Duncan has stepped up as WICA’s acting executive director. A new model of leadership may be in the works for the arts organization.
“The WICA Board of Directors views this leadership transition as a rare opportunity to ‘take a breath’ and review the leadership structure of the organization,” Duncan said in an email. “The community and WICA have grown and changed since opening 26 years ago and instead of quickly placing another executive director we all see this as a chance to look at other models.”
Everitt will be moving to upstate New York at the end of this month to spend more time with family members.
She expressed excitement about moving to the East Coast and experiencing the arts scene.