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Arts lover: Edwards takes over reins at AoA

010919 Laurie Edwards

Laurie Edwards, new executive director of Arts of the Albemarle, talks about some of the new programs and initiatives she's hoping to start at AoA during an interview at AoA's The Center in Elizabeth City, Wednesday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, January 11, 2019

Laurie Edwards brings a lifelong love of the arts to her new job as executive director of Arts of the Albemarle.

When she was growing up her family ran the union of usherettes on Broadway, and at 14 she started working on Broadway as an usher. While many of the other young ushers left at intermission, Edwards says she always stayed for the whole show and took advantage of any opportunity to get backstage and meet the actors.

“I was like a little theater mouse,” Edwards said.

Now she gets to promote theater, visual arts and a variety of local arts programming through AoA.

Edwards, who started as AoA’s executive director on Monday, said the week has been hectic because of the number of upcoming shows and activities going on at the local arts organization.

“It’s exciting, but it’s also daunting because of the volume of what we’re doing here,” she said.

AoA’s Gallery features sculpture, jewelry, pottery and paintings, while upcoming shows in AoA’s Maguire Theater include an acoustic concert by award-winning singer Kari Garrison on Feb. 2 and singer-storyteller Duke Thompson’s one-man performance as Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 9.

“I’d like to bring in more storytellers and comics — more unusual offerings so that we can attract more people to the town and to Arts of the Albemarle,” Edwards said.

Edwards said AoA’s Gallery features one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry and pottery that are reasonably priced.

“So no one else is wearing that but the person who buys it, and that’s a cool thing,” she said.

AoA is working on special opportunities for Coast Guard families, including gallery discounts and free tickets to shows, she said.

“We would like to develop more programs for the Coast Guard,” Edwards said, mentioning that a spring break theater camp for Coast Guard children is being planned.

Edwards said she also is working with the Boys & Girls Club on a weekly theater class. The first class for the club was held Wednesday afternoon.

She’s also planning an open mic night once a month, giving people an opportunity to recite poetry or perform music or comedy. Edwards said students approached her about wanting an opportunity to share their poetry and the idea grew from there.

“All are invited and it’s free,” Edwards said. “So it’s giving everybody a chance to perform.”

AoA is for all people in the community, she said.

“I want to break down that thought that we’re exclusive, because we’re not,” Edwards said.

During First Friday ArtWalks, for instance, everyone can come and view art, meet artists and have a glass of wine, and it’s free, she said.

“We want people to experience it, and the bigger the better,” Edwards said.

With SPLASH! coming up in June, Edwards is exploring the idea of blocking off a part of Main Street and holding the event in the street. She said she hopes city officials will get behind the idea.

“The idea is to make Main Street ‘Arts Avenue’” during SPLASH! so that people will feel comfortable meeting the artists and learning about art, she said.

Most of AoA’s past musical events have featured mainly country, bluegrass and folk bands, Edwards said. She would like to branch out and bring in more rap and hip-hop groups and rock bands. She’d also like to feature a Beatles tribute band sometime.

One of her favorite jobs in the past was theater producer, as she especially enjoyed being involved in rock and pop operas such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“I would like to do more of that here,” Edwards said. “There is great local talent.”

Another thing she would like to do is host performances by Gospel singers and choral groups from local churches.

Edwards said her door is open and she is eager to hear from people about what they would like to see and hear at AoA.

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