Arts Faces2017 saw some big changes for many of the performing and visual arts in Fluvanna County, beginning with the departure of Warren Johnson, who stepped down as president of the Persimmon Tree Players (PTP) after nearly 13 years. Beth Sherk took his place and at first was reluctant in her new role, but has emerged stronger with a vision for a new destination for the group that builds on its successes. Always an optimist with a goal, she has teamed up with other PTP members who are looking out for PTP’s best interests in the coming year.

Sherk brings a fresh, energetic perspective to PTP, whereas Johnson was a stabilizing force who helped build the group back up to the well-respected community theater group it once had been. Sherk and fellow PTP member George Gaige are keeping the engine going.

PTP and the Fluvanna County Arts Council (FCAC) have also forged an alliance with 18-year-old theater wunderkind, Jessica Harris, who started the children’s theater group Empowered Players. Both PTP and FCAC see this as a milestone, encouraging young people and training them in the theater arts. PTP is hoping to eventually have some of her students join them and cut their teeth on a larger, more intense production.

Gaige, Sherk and Sharon Harris are working with FCAC on future projects to bring people in and introduce them to the magic of theater and music. With this addition of newcomers and innovative ideas, President Adele Schaefer feels the future is looking brighter for the performing arts.

Schaefer is still cautious with a wait and see attitude, particularly with a shift taking place in performing arts throughout the U.S. But PTP and Langden Mason’s Langume Productions, along with the Fluvanna Community Singers, keep bringing in the audiences and remain a strong staple for FCAC. But like Sherk, Schaefer is open to exploring new ideas to keep audiences coming.

2017 saw another departure. Horace Scruggs, the beloved choir director of the Fluvanna Community Singers, stepped down and Scott David took his place. Both David and the singers wondered what life would be like after Scruggs but after the Christmas performance, Scott won over the chorus and the audience with humor and an easygoing manner, beginning a new chapter in the history of the Fluvanna Singers.

There is always fear when groups shift leaders but the choices made this past year have proven to be solid, taking these groups in new directions. After nearly four years at the helm, Susan Lang left her position as president of the Fluvanna Art Association (FAA), and watercolor artist Linda Bethke will be taking over as the newly installed president.
FAA members are not sure what ideas Bethke has in mind for the future of the visual art group, but those that promoted her to this position were enthusiastic about nominating her. Bethke admitted she was nervous about taking on the responsibility but knows she has the support of a strong board of talented artists who have been in her position. She has vowed to keep the FAA programs strong and informative, but knowing Bethke, there will be fun too.