Guild Hall is gearing up for a landmark 90th year in 2021, with Hamptonite arts stalwart Amy Kirwin joining the team as Chief Creative Officer. Kirwin, along with Executive Director Andrea Grover, talk about their plans for Guild Hall in 2021 and beyond.
How did this new role of Chief Creative Officer come about?
Kirwin: I guess it was a few weeks ago, I got a message from Andrea that she wanted to chat and assumed there was a collaboration she wanted to talk about. She said she’d come up with a new role at Guild Hall with me in mind and told me what it would entail. It sounded too good to be true, so I thought about it—I love Southampton Arts Center and it’s been a great experience so it wasn’t an easy decision—but change is good, so I decided it would be a good move for me.
Grover: Well, it’s our 90th anniversary and we’ve been operating since the Great Depression as an antidote to that troubled time. Guild Hall’s mission has always been civic-minded. It opened as an arts town hall and, in addition to galleries and a theater, it’s been a gathering place for debates, blood drives…it’s been a hybrid of town hall and arts and cultural center. As we enter our 90th anniversary, that mission seems especially prescient during a time where we have so much division and also disease in our country. We need someone who is a natural at building bridges and community. Amy has a gift for building trust and authenticity among various demographics that make up our community. We created the Chief Creative Officer to act as the keeper of the mission, vision and values of the institution. It’s a position designed to unify the institution internally and externally.
Talk about bringing all your arts disciplines together.
Grover: We were founded as one of the first multidisciplinary centers in the country to combine a theater, museum and education center in equal measure and were very non-hierarchical as well. You could have kids’ art in the gallery and then the next week a famous artist. Guild Hall’s attitude has always been, “creativity is innately human.” How do we combine all the disciplines? We just finished a new strategic, five-year plan and the focus of it is not multidisciplinary but interdisciplinary, so finding where the arts intersect with education and participation. Amy is going to be the bridge between the disciplines. We no longer think of departmental boundaries but where we can overlap.
Amy, what is your first item on the agenda, and a larger goal for the year?
Kirwin: In addition to growing our social media presence, we’re looking for ways to build our audience. We want to find that sweet spot demographic everybody is trying to fill of 20s–40s to tap into that audience, as well. It’s hard to say right now, but I feel like a big goal is to broaden the audience. One side is celebrating the history, but also, Guild Hall is very contemporary and on the pulse where you might find classical music one night and then Hasan Minhaj the other night doing comedy, so it’s such a varied program. I’ve said that before and people say to me, “You can’t have something for everybody!” but you can and you should, because if you don’t, you eventually run out of audiences. So I think it’s coming up with new and creative ways to engage in every member of the community.
Check out ongoing arts programs at guildhall.org.