and Reinvestment are Keys to Amarillo’s Future
you ever taken on one task only to see it expand into other opportunities? Have
you ever started one project and had it blossom into something much bigger?
These unexpected moments of interconnectivity are always challenging, but they
can be extremely exciting, too.
I feel like I’m in the middle of one of those moments. Last Fall, Susan White
announced she would be leaving her position as Executive Director of the
Amarillo Symphony Orchestra to become general manager of the Spokane Symphony
in Washington. This was a great move for Susan but left our Symphony in need of
a new leader. We’re now in our second season under the baton of acclaimed
conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos—who has taken the Symphony to new levels of
performance and creativity—but we need someone to replace Susan.
As a member of the Board of Directors for the
Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, I have been asked to chair the search committee. When
I began studying the job posting for the Executive Director position, I was
surprised to find that as much of the text was promoting Amarillo as describing
the Symphony and the position itself. Wondering why this was the case, I asked
what I learned: The biggest challenge in filling a high-profile position like Executive
Director of the Symphony isn’t locating exceptional candidates. It’s finding
exceptional candidates who are willing to move to Amarillo.
may surprise some people. Those of us who have chosen to build our lives here
know already why Amarillo is a fantastic place to live. We’re minutes away from
beautiful Palo Duro Canyon and enjoy some of the best sunsets and sunrises in
the Southwest. Few cities our size have a successful opera, symphony and ballet
like we do. Forbes ranks Amarillo as #38 for the Best Small Places for Business
today’s economy, quality of life is the focus,” says City Council Member Ellen
Robertson Green, who is also Chief Communication and Marketing Officer at
Amarillo College. While the phrase itself encompasses a large range of issues, “quality
of life” often refers to art and culture. As a civic leader, Green believes it
is her responsibility to advocate for those kinds of activities.
perfect example of this impact is the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts
where the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, Amarillo Opera, Lone Star Ballet, and
countless other artistic performances take place. Opened in 2006, this
now-iconic building was a significant first step in making Amarillo a cultural
destination. “The Globe News Center was the anchor project,” Green says. “The
people who brought us the Globe News Center were the first who really believed
in the revitalization of downtown Amarillo.”
Jones, the chair of the Symphony’s Focus Committee on Relationships, has said
that the world-class Globe News Center had an enormous impact on our ability to
attract a conductor like Bairos. Likewise, it should help us find a visionary
leader to be the Symphony’s new Executive Director. This person, she says,
“needs to be someone with strong leadership skills who can unite with the
Amarillo Art Community for the good of Amarillo.”
united city is key. The Amarillo Symphony is looking for a results oriented
who can collaborate with the vibrant arts community of this region--from students
and educators within local school districts to the faculty and musicians at
WTAMU and Amarillo College, and from the performing arts such as the Opera and
Ballet to other cultural entities like Amarillo Little Theatre and Amarillo
Museum of Art.
like the ASO Executive Director will ideally be central for the arts and
cultural communities, we see a visible example of this in downtown Amarillo. It
is the heart of our city. Every quadrant and neighborhood of our city
intersects here. The downtown area is Amarillo’s artistic nucleus.
the Globe News Center may have been the first recent project of a downtown
revitalization, it shouldn’t be the end. I hope it will be the beginning of an
ongoing transformation in Amarillo.
is definitely possible. Our city has two unique qualities that provide a strong
foundation for growth. First, unlike many cities in West Texas, we have an
adequate and sustainable water supply, with half a million acre feet of water
rights in the area. That means we can support a larger population than
currently lives here.
we are geographically isolated. Our position on I-40 between Albuquerque and
Oklahoma City puts us at least four hours from any other major city. That makes
Amarillo the artistic and population center of a 26-county region. We’re the
medical and shopping destination for hundreds of thousands of Panhandle
residents—far more than the 200,000 in our immediate urban area.
our economy is strong. Our people are friendly, hard-working, and passionate
about our area.
those ingredients combine to form the perfect model for economic growth. It is
not a linear model, but a dynamic, fluid, even cyclical one. As we invest in the arts and downtown venues
we will see improvement in the arts and local culture. As the culture improves,
quality of life improves. Quality of life brings educated people to the area.
It encourages our children to return home after pursuing post high school
education. The influx of educated professionals generates higher paying jobs
and an innovative workforce. This leads to additional investment. The cycle
continues. Success breeds success.
cycle must begin somewhere. We must think beyond ourselves and for our children
and grandchildren. It is not easy to facilitate and implement a change in the
thinking process. It requires us to
elect leaders and to support visionaries.
have to do these things to make Amarillo a destination rather than a
pass-through city on the way to somewhere else. When we begin to believe in
ourselves, others will believe in us. When we invest in ourselves, others will
invest in us, too. All of us must work together to achieve this.
hesitation, Ellen Robertson Green equates Amarillo’s quality of life with
cultural investment. “We need venues. Arts and cultural activities are part of
the modern economy,” she says, and those are the kinds of venues that
contribute to Amarillo’s quality of life. “As I look around Amarillo I see
exciting developments such as Town Square, the reinvestment in Wolflin Square
and the downtown revitalization. These are projects of visionaries who have an
understanding of what is required in the modern economy.” That kind of
reinvestment, she says, results in “the creation of the kind of community with
the quality of life that is viable for decades to come.”
has a fantastic quality of life. We are comfortable here but comfort sometimes
leads to complacency. We simply can’t afford to sit back and not take action.
Let’s look beyond ourselves and toward an improved, future Amarillo where the
arts are central, where our downtown area is bustling and energetic, and where
the best and the brightest choose to make their home.
Dryden, Risk Management Consultant
Posted on April 21, 2015
by Elizabeth Carter