Laura Maxey, the new managing director at ARTworks, says art is a locally produced commodity that's often best enjoyed where it is created.
"There's a huge movement to buy locally grown food, eat at restaurants that use local ingredients, and I think that art should be looked at like that as well -- as a local consumable," she said.
Maxey started her duties Jan. 2 leading the nonprofit community art center, theater and gallery in Beaufort that's run by the Arts Council of Beaufort County. She said she is on a "listening tour" to find out what ARTworks means to people before she starts making plans for her new job.
Maxey will be available during an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at ARTworks, 2127 Boundary St., in the Beaufort Town Center.
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Previous executive director J.W. Rone has been an adviser to Maxey, who has not previously led a nonprofit.
The daughter of two visual artists, Maxey turned a high school love for tech theater into college degrees and worked for years on off-Broadway sets. After unsettling events that included the death of a friend and being mugged at gunpoint, she sought the slower pace of the Lowcountry.
A front-desk job at a golf course led to facility and construction management positions with the Town of Hilton Head Island and the town of Bluffton. She said that's how she learned to coordinate events and write and manage grants.
"It was a little eclectic, and I was worried at some times in my life about being a generalist instead of a specialist, but it all comes together," Maxey said.
Maxey, who lives in Bluffton, hopes to bring together area art organizations and galleries to find ways to cooperate and improve programming.
"As the Arts Council of Beaufort County, it makes sense that we would be the ones to spearhead such an initiative, versus another arts group who may be affiliated with a particular town, city, university, etc.," she said.
Last fall, ARTworks reorganized, splitting the executive director job into multiple positions. Board member Melissa Florence was set to take the position but declined. Then Keith Mahoney was hired as interim director, a position he held only briefly.
Local artist Deanna Bowdish was brought on as curator and moved her art gallery to the center.
Gail Westerfield and her Misspent Youth Productions have been hired as the resident theater company. Westerfield has been involved with ARTworks for years and was a co-producer two years ago. Along with planning a fall theater season that she hopes will include youth either performing or assisting, she plans to begin teaching a series of acting classes by the end of the month.
Westerfield will also be at Thursday's open house.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.