A Request to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners

Tinka Jordy, Representing the Cultural Center Committee

October 20, 2009

I am speaking on behalf the Cultural Center Committee. Since 2005, we have diligently worked together to explore and implement a vision for the creation of an Orange County Cultural Center. On April 15, 2008, we presented you with detailed thoughts, ideas, and documentation regarding our proposed creation of such a center. Tonight we present to you a document that further details the potential economic benefit of arts and culture for our county.

We remain steadfast in our beliefs that:

  • There is a wealth of cultural capital in our community. More than 1400 artists of all kinds are listed in the Orange County Arts Commission’s database. We have painters, photographers, filmmakers, poets, writers, musicians, dancers, fine craft artists. As well, our county is home to many individuals and organizations that are making valuable efforts to archive our cultural history, protect our cultural artifacts, sites and buildings, and to preserve all of these precious resources for the benefit of the citizenry.
  • There is a perennial need for space and venue for the expression of the arts and humanities. Specialized performance and rehearsal space, gallery and studio space is very difficult to secure in Orange County, as are office, meeting and teaching facilities. Locating multiple entities, with shared focuses on art, culture, history, and heritage, all in one physical location, would encourage a dynamic exchange of inspiration, ideas, and work, as well as an opportunity to share underpinning resources.
  • Appreciation of these cultural assets has a significant economic impact on Orange County. According to the Orange County Office of Economic Development, total visitor spending in the county was $152.2 million in 2008.  Arts and historical attractions bring these visitors and help to express what is different about our area. Visitors come to Orange County looking for authenticity, for the character of a place, for unique attractions. Our county is a blossoming cultural destination for those from near and far. A vibrant cultural center would serve as yet another magnet for visitors, whether their visits are for leisure or for business.

The work of our Cultural Center Committee toward the creation of this public space continues in earnest. Our ever-broadening, countywide coalition continues to strongly support the idea that the Whitted Building, situated in the historic district of Hillsborough, would be an ideal home for this much-needed Cultural Center.

The Whitted Building, formerly the site of Hillsborough High School, has already, for years upon years, been a “cultural center” by most people’s definition. Throughout its history as a high school, and later as the public library, a voting poll, the home of parks and recreation courses, and many other public uses, the Whitted Building has been a place of gathering and a place of uniting cultural and creative inspiration.

Tonight, we seek your consensus that the cultural needs of the citizens of our County, when combined with the “people’s history” of this building as a valuable and popular public space, warrants special attention with regard to the assignment of its future use.

At this time we respectfully request that the Board of Commissioners appoint a Task Force to objectively investigate the potential for the Whitted Building—for its highest and best use, for the benefit of all citizens of Orange County.

Thank you very much.

Cultural Center Committee:

  • Music Maker Relief Foundation
  • Orange Community Players
  • Historic Hillsborough Commission (The Burwell School)
  • Historical Foundation of Hillsborough and Orange County (The Orange County Museum)
  • Hillsborough Arts Council
  • Orange County Arts Commission
  • Orange County Artist Guild
  • Orange County Library
  • Thomas Campanella
  • Callie Connor
  • Tinka Jordy
  • Margo Pinkerton
  • Bobbi Whittemore
  • Ex Officio – Elizabeth Read (The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough)