Central Florida Community Arts celebrated their 12th birthday last month by unveiling a new logo and ambassador program, and the party continues next weekend with their "Classic(al) Rock" concert at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 19. But the most important news is their newly appointed "young, gifted, Black and gay" CEO Terrance Hunter, who recently talked with Orlando Weekly about his past and the future of the volunteer-driven organization he now leads.
OW: How did you get started in our arts community?
Terrance Hunter: I am from Orlando, born and raised here. Serving this community has been something I have done since 2008, and it really started with my first job at the History Center. [After graduating from high school] I went to the History Center, and what was supposed to be nine weeks turned into four and a half years. The History Center showed me the power of an institution to engage with the community and to be reflective of a community, and to really share stories and present content in ways that people care about. I wasn't a history fan; I did not like history. So to go from not being a fan of history, to then teaching about it in various capacities for ;four and a half years, really was a great challenge.
What was it like joining CFCArts as senior programming director just as the COVID pandemic began?
During the pandemic, our charge was to keep our community creative and connected. We shut down on a Thursday, and by Monday we had launched a full series of programs free of charge to our community, because we knew that people needed something.
But I think what I am most proud of, in addition to having all of those [virtual] opportunities for people, is our return to in-person programming. I can't explain the feeling that we had when we were able to bring people together to perform in a garden with an audience on Halloween.
What does the "community" in CFCArts mean to you?
I like to say that when we bring groups of people together, they come together with strangers that will become friends. Because that is what CFCArts is about — we're about building community; the arts are the vehicle through which we do it.
When we talk about creating safe spaces, we're talking about promoting connection between people that may look alike, or may not look alike; connections between people who may have similar skill sets and experiences, and people who have vastly different skill sets and experiences. Community is about connection.
How do you pursue CFCArts' goal of being "radically inclusive"?
We will never be the gatekeepers. It means that when we know a barrier exists, we will do all that we can to remove it. If that's geographic, if that's financial, if that's ability, if that's where you come from, what you look like, your experience level, all of those things: We want to remove as many of those barriers as possible. To be radically inclusive means not only are we removing those barriers, but we're creating spaces where you know you belong, where you can walk in the room and say, "This is for me." Because your first time at a rehearsal with 300 people, we're going to give you a friend who will help you navigate the process.
It also means in terms of our programming, we are becoming more diverse, continuing to be more reflective of what we program; telling broader stories, bigger stories [and] telling some of the same stories with different lenses.
What is your and your staff's relationship with CFCArts' board of directors like?
I have the best board of directors, and I know sometimes people say that — I actually mean it.
What I admire most about our board is that we are all here working for the same purpose. We are all here working for the same reason. We've done a couple of exercises over the past year to talk about what the staff sees as strategic priorities for the organization and what the board sees as strategic priorities for the organization. And we had the same things; we may have prioritized them differently, but our lists were identical.
What lessons were learned from CFCArts' production of Ragtime, which was postponed and relocated from Northland Church after controversy over its content?
Because of our relationship with Northland, we value and respect what they deem appropriate for what they do in their space. I think it was a really great opportunity for us to hear from our community that the story itself is one that they want to hear told.
Theater is nothing if it is not starting conversations, if it is not providing windows into the experiences of others, [and] we were intentional about creating conversations. Because that was something that we heard loudly and clearly: that our community not only wanted more conversations, but also that there was more room to educate around all of the issues that Ragtime brings to light. Even though it's set in the early 1900s, all of the issues that are present within the musical, we are still dealing with and seeing play out in real time today.