CARROLLWOOD —Sometimes you just don’t know how much you love and appreciate something until it’s taken away.
This concept hasn’t been lost on many during the era of COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing protocols.
“I think people found out how important the arts really are,” said Adrienne Hutelmyer, marketing director at the Carrollwood Cultural Center.“When you were stuck at home, what did you do?”
Arts-related activities — watching films and shows, painting, learning an instrument — are common replies to that question. And as society begins reopening in fits and starts, it seems people are ready to continue their longtime or newfound activities away from their homes and in the company of others, Hutelmyer said.
“What I have found is the people who missed their thing they enjoyed really missed it a lot,” she said from the Center last week.“They were happy to come welcome back whatever that program was and I think we’ve seen a lot of people trying new things, as well, because they’ve been away from so much.”
Some people just want to be around and involved with the facility it seems, even when they’re not participating in a class or craft or attending a gallery opening or production.
“I have a volunteer training this weekend,” Community Engagement Director Ashley Lord said last Wednesday. “I have about 30 people coming and only 10 are former volunteers. So 20 are brand new coming to the learn about the center and help.”
“I think COVID made people reassess their priorities,” Lord added.“One of those priorities people found while having to stay at home and not be a part of their community is that they want to feel a sense of community. That’s something that we, through an arts lens, definitely provide.”
Though some protocols and restrictions remain in place at Carrollwood Cultural Center, the facility and its directors have been working to reintroduce itself to the community with a splash. What that entails is bringing back the standard favorites patrons have come to expect along with fresh, new ideas.
“I think it would have been a shame if we went through COVID and came back expecting to be exactly the way we were,” Hutelmyer said. “You think you would come back from COVID feeling more limited, and I feel like we have so much more going on and so much more new stuff we’re going to have.”
New introductions to the Center range from a variety of class topicsopen for registration to staged dance productions to a new lecture series to the facility’s first-ever film production.
The Center has been producing and staging its own theater productions or hosting them since the late 2000s. Dance productions are a little trickier, explained Entertainment Director Derek Baxter, because of the smaller size of the stage. Trickier but far from impossible.
“I'm enjoying the challenge of finding these smaller dance companies to come in that are excited about a smaller black-box space,” Baxter said, adding that the Center will soon be hosting a flamenco dance company and an African dance company on its stage.
Another new addition, said Lord, will be a lecture series titled “The Art Of … ” that will feature an expert in specific field, such as tattooing or art therapy.
Mid-October brings a special first to the Carrollwood Cultural Center, when the facility rolls out the red carpet for the premiere of “The Call of Cthulhu,” the first film produced at the Center’s new film studio. The black-and-white movie trailer is viewable on the Center’s Facebook page.
For more information on the Carrollwood Cultural Center and schedule of events, classes and more, go to www.CarrollwoodCenter.org.The facility is located at 4537 Lowell Rd., Tampa.