BUCKHANNON – When she was still a student at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Anne Wilson was delighted to learn the City of Buckhannon had purchased the old Colonial Theatre and planned to transform the East Main Street structure into an arts center.
Working there seemed like her dream job, Wilson told the Colonial Arts Center Board of Directors when she interviewed for a job managing the former theater, now dubbed the Colonial Arts Center. Now, after an official decision at Thursday’s Buckhannon City Council meeting, Wilson will get to do just that.
Buckhannon City Council approved the Colonial Arts Center Board’s recommendation to hire Wilson as the CAC’s new manager. Wilson earned an arts management degree from WVWC and is a barista at Stone Tower Brews.
Addressing council members, CAC Board vice-chair Erika Klie Kolenich explained the board’s logic, noting the board decided to change the position from managing director to simply manager.
“The conclusion that we came to is that we would like to recommend Anne Wilson for the position of Colonial Arts Center manager as opposed to managing director,” Kolenich said. “Two things drew us to Anne, and those two things are growth and passion. She exhibits so much passion; she became almost teary telling [CAC board members] about how when she was in college at Wesleyan and heard Buckhannon was undertaking an arts center how excited she was that she could stay in Buckhannon and be a part of that process.”
“She is someone who has passion and exuberance to grow with the Colonial Arts Center,” Kolenich added, “and because of that, we think she is someone who could come in at a more modest salary that would allow us to have some of that extra money that we talked about having to hire a consultant to guide Ms. Wilson and the Colonial Arts Center to be the success that we know it can be.”
During its 2022-2023 fiscal year budget sessions, the city allocated $50,000 for a full-time Colonial Arts Center managing director and part-time assistant. However, as Kolenich explained, the board now plans to hire an experienced consultant to assist Wilson.
City recorder Randy Sanders, a member of the CAC board, said Wilson “really came alive” in the second interview.
“She really started hitting some home runs,” Sanders said. “The scenario that is outlined as well allows us to provide her with an opportunity to have success so we can go out and get a consultant who does have some years of experience to be able to guide and provide wisdom so that we’re not setting someone up for failure in what’s going to be a very robust and challenging manager … I’m thrilled that we have this recommendation before us tonight.”
Councilwoman Pam Bucklew, who subbed in for a CAC board member who had to recuse themselves, said she, too, thought Wilson a wise choice.
“She has such energy, and I think that energy will show in getting the Colonial theater going,” Bucklew said. “I’m really excited about it.”
John Waltz, chair of the CAC board, said once the arts center is operational, it will be a significant driver of economic development, a great resource for attracting visitors to the area and “for our youth, more than anything.”
“I think what’s been so exciting about it is that … when I first thought of it, as a theater person, I thought of it as a theater, but as we’ve seen the support we’ve gotten for it, it’s really become so much more than that,” he said. “Classroom spaces have been developed, artist spaces have been developed, and there’s space for someone from the Board of Education to work. I’m proud that it’s really become not one person’s vision, not a group of people’s vision, but our whole community’s vision and it keeps changing as we get into it.”
Bucklew made a motion to accept the board’s recommendation to hire Wilson as CAC manager, which was seconded by councilman CJ Rylands. Prior to the vote, councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines said she wanted to offer a comment.
“You’re absolutely right; this did not start out where it’s at now,” Sines said, referencing Waltz’s comments. “And I need you to know that I saw that process [unfold]. I think a lot of people had a different opinion of my opinion. I just needed information – that’s all I was asking for – but I am impressed with the direction it’s going, and I just want to say that; I just want to give you that because I think you need it and I think you deserve it.”
Council voted in favor of the motion, with the exception of councilman Jack Reger who abstained because he was not present for the discussion.
Mayor Robbie Skinner said running the arts center, a publicly funded entity, will be uncharted territory.
“This is going to be a learning process for us all,” Skinner said. “We’ve not done this before, and Anne knows that, and Anne’s not done this before. Look, there’s going to be some bumps – and we know that. I just hope the community’s patient with us.”