Sitting down with William Starrett, executive and artistic director
What is your business’s biggest challenge?
Raising money. As a non-profit and the largest performing arts organization in the state, we work daily to educate city leaders and influencers to understand that the non-profit business model is structured to be dependent upon support from corporations, public funding, foundations and individuals.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you or your business?
Over the past 26 years, we have reached more than 500,000 children through our Educational Outreach Series. We tour extensively. We are the primary ballet company for the cities of Columbia, North Charleston, Sumter, Hartsville, Lancaster and Savannah, Georgia.
What are your goals for this year?
Our main goal is to substantially increase much needed financial support and create three new works. We will be re-working the Beauty & the Beast Ballet with all new symphonic music; creating the new Educational Outreach ballet, Goldilocks and the Three B’s; Bach, Beethoven & Beyoncé; and creating the world premiere of Emanuel Ballet: Forgiveness, Hope and Healing.
How has the Columbia community benefitted from your business?
We produce world-class ballets, providing entertainment for thousands and contributing to the city’s economic engine. Located on Columbia’s Main Street, the ballet employs more professional artists than any other South Carolina performing arts organization. Each artist is a part of the city’s economic engine. Our performances attract tourists who buy tickets, patronize restaurants, hotels and retail establishments, further feeding the economy. Studies show more than 75 percent of ballet patrons dine in conjunction with attending a performance. These patrons replenish the hospitality and accommodations tax revenues which are our primary sources of public funding.
How does your company give back to the Columbia community?
The arts provide a lasting impression that speaks about the people of a community and their accomplishments and achievements. We support our community through free public appearances and performances, through our Educational Outreach Series, the volunteerism of our members, artists, staff and our board of directors.