Edwards named AoA's new director
From staff reports
Monday, December 10, 2018
Arts of the Albemarle has turned to a local business owner with a background in both marketing and community theater to be its new executive director.
Laurie Edwards, who, along with husband Will Raucci, owns the Virginia Dare Arcade and will soon open the Elizabeth City Pizza Company, will assume her duties at AoA on Jan. 6, Ann Hoffman, president of AoA’s Board of Directors, said in a press release Sunday.
Edwards takes over for Mark Maland, who has served as AoA’s interim executive director since former executive director Larry Giddens’ departure in August.
“We are excited to have Laurie come onboard to lead AoA,’’ Hoffman said. “She brings exceptional marketing and business experience to the position, as well as a background in and passion for the performing arts. Her combination of skills should help strengthen AoA’s position and move us forward.’’
Referring to AoA’s status as Elizabeth City’s premiere arts group, Edwards said in the press release that she’s “honored” to be “entrusted ... with stewardship of Elizabeth City’s jewel.”
“The combination of great art, entertainment, restaurants and shopping provide a wonderful experience for the town and its visitors,” she said. “I hope to elevate AoA’s stature as a cultural destination by furthering its commitment to creativity and diversity.’'
According to Hoffman, Edwards was born and raised in New York City and is a graduate of both Syracuse University and Rutgers University, earning a master’s degree in digital marketing from the latter. After opening her own ad agency, Edwards’ first client was Sheraton Hotels, for whom Hoffman said Edwards developed a strategic plan for locating its hotels. Edwards also helped create the Fine Homes & Estates luxury brand for the Century 21 Real Estate company, Hoffman said.
Edwards also served as president of Phoenix Productions, New Jersey’s largest community theater group, Hoffman said.
Edwards and Raucci, who live in Edenton, have already been active in the continuing development of Elizabeth City’s downtown. Besides buying the Virginia Dare Arcade, they also plan to open the Elizabeth City Pizza Company, a pizzeria, in the former Sidney’s Bistro this month.
“Laurie and Will are invested in downtown Elizabeth City, and thus, have a personal stake in the continued success of AoA,’’ Hoffman said.
Hoffman said AoA is appreciative for Maland’s work as interim director, saying he’s “done an extraordinary job” and describing him as an “exceptional leader.”
“He has worked tirelessly to advance AoA’s mission, executing contracts with performers that strengthen AoA’s financial position, securing sponsors, meeting with other arts council directors and overseeing a large grant from the North Carolina Arts Council designated to engage active duty military in the arts,” she said.
Maland, whose last day as AoA’s interim director is Dec. 21, said he had learned a lot about the organization that he hadn’t already known as an AoA board member.
“I had a general idea of what AoA does, but quickly learned about the multiple services and benefits we provide to this community,’’ he said. “AoA really is the cornerstone of downtown Elizabeth City."
Besides voting to hire Edwards, Hoffman said the AoA board also agreed to close AoA to the public on Mondays, beginning Dec. 24, as part of the organization’s new winter schedule, which will be in effect through February.
According to Hoffman, the new schedule reflects the “winter seasonality of tourism and business activity” and is in line with the winter schedules of other arts organizations and galleries.