metaphorically speaking, the gravel hadn’t even settled after we pulled out of the parking lot and our newly-created-recently-released website had already been changed. david warned me about this, telling me how tom m used to tell him this very thing about the moments – even just mere moments – after you leave a position. you are forgotten, your ideas are left behind in the dust; you are the person who used to do the job.
i had spent hours and hours and hours and weeks and months designing, branding, carefully trying to portray this unique place in a fresh, interesting, vital-to-the-community way. i painstakingly chose fonts and always included “xoxo” in posts. i pored over hundreds of pictures i had taken there, looking for the right imagery to represent this performing arts center to which, just over a year ago, i had felt an instant attachment. TPAC, a beautiful 253-seat theatre on a tiny island. i added a small heart to advertising, social media posts, communications. my heart was attached and it seemed apropos to subtly include love from TPAC in everything to the residents who have shared their island with it.
for the last year – until the end of the day yesterday – we, two people with lifelong immersion in the arts, have been the co-managing directors of this theatre. on this island-you-cannot-drive-to, across death’s door from the mainland of door county, we weathered our way through waves of challenges. we were brought there to create, to bring TPAC into next, to carefully elicit change in a place that pushed back against change. we made dear new friends; we gauged our days and our progress by the greetings at the grocery store. my fondness grew.
managing a performing arts center is not for the weak of heart. it is not, as some would think, simply about booking performers into the space. instead, it is weaving the place in which it exists into its very fabric, acknowledging the importance of the local arts organizations and forging relationships with their people, listening, working together to make the theatre accessible and intrinsic – necessary – to all. it is fundraising, addressing personality issues, graphic design, ad sponsorship, strategizing, gently and firmly guiding. for us, it was seeing the infinite details (i’m the detail one) and the arcing scope into the future (he’s the big picture one). it was sitting-on-the-edge-of-the-wooden-stage-dreaming at its best and cleaning-the-backstage-refrigerator at its most practical.
we lived in the littlehouse on the water, a place we still cherish. every morning i took a photograph over the lake; every night we marveled at the million stars in the sky. we walked on quiet roads and hung out laundry to dry. in the middle of enacting progressive forward-moving dreams, we had also returned to a simpler place, a simpler time. washington island is indeed away-away and the ferry that makes it possible to come and go dictated our few comings and goings.
there were moments, as you would suspect, of difficulty, for no tiny place is immune to that, to agenda or powerplay. indeed, no dense urban city is immune, so a somewhat homogeneous island with generations-long-standing residents proves no different. when we accepted this position we put on our ‘what’s best for TPAC?’ hats and, with more objectivity than those who have been immersed in the politics and life of a place for most of its tenure, we were determined to leave those hats on, despite all odds, regardless of any pressure to bow differently. we brought heart to TPAC and we leave pieces of our hearts behind in it.
every journey has meaning. today i grieve the inevitable exit from this place. they will continue on, outsiders-be-gone, with one of their own at the helm to take them into next, the island way. TPAC will continue to grow and change; there is so much potential there. we can see it.
and today, as i close my eyes and see the traditional red-cushioned theatre seating of the house and feel the wooden stage under my boots, i know my heart will mend a bit as the dust settles. and the key sticks in the lock of the backstage door just as it always has.
(a farewell video post to TPAC)
©️ 2020 kerri sherwood & david robinson