Birmingham--When the Jefferson County Commission eliminated its $4.2 million a year allocation for arts and cultural organizations it sent local arts groups scrambling to replace the funding. On the next On The Line, March 31 at 6:30 p.m., our guests take your comments and questions about Funding the Arts.
Keith Cromwell is executive director of Red Mountain Theatre Company, formerly known as Summerfest Musical Theatre. Since coming to RMTC in 2003, Cromwell has directed and choreographed many mainstage productions, including Damn Yankees, Once on This Island, Gypsy, Annie, Footloose, and Grease, and been involved in numerous Cabaret productions including the acclaimed Smokey Joe's Cafe. Cromwell has been active in enhancing a collaborative atmosphere in the arts community in Birmingham. In 2004, RMTC participated in a historic collaboration with the Alabama Symphony and Alabama Ballet in presenting Carousel (which led to a continued partnership with the Alabama Symphony in the October 2005 performance of Annie Get Your Gun and the September 2006 concert version of The Music Man). RMTCs collaboration continued with Vulcan Park and Museum as the organizations joined forces to present Miss Vulcan 1939 in September 2007. Cromwell also participates in community organizations like the Cultural Alliance Review Board, Leadership Birmingham and the Cultural Arts Committee for the Birmingham City Schools.
Prior to coming to Birmingham, Cromwell's career included being the Associate Director and Choreographer for the Off-Broadway show Pete-N-Keely which featured Phyllis Diller, Jo Anne Worley and Charo. He also served as Show Supervisor and Associate Choreographer for the Off-Broadway production of Howard Crabtree's When Pigs Fly!, which won the Drama Desk, Obie, Outer Critics Circle and American Theatre Wing awards. In addition to these remarkable accomplishments, Cromwell has performed as a cast member in countless well-known productions like the First Broadway National Tours Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Donny Osmond and Sam Harris, La Cage Aux Folles, the off-Broadway hit Howard Crabtree's Whoop-Dee-Doo! and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. He is also included in the original cast recordings of Howard Crabtree's When Pigs Fly! and Whoop-Dee-Doo!
Cromwell is a vested member of Actors Equity Association (AEA) as well as Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC), American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He currently serves nationally on the New Works Selection Committee for the National Alliance of Musical Theatres (NAMT) and also recently served on the Granting Review Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington D.C.
Brett M. Levine is the Director of the Visual Arts Gallery of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He holds a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He is the former Team Leader, Collection Programs, at the Dowse Art Museum, and the former Director of Lopdell House Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand. He has written for numerous publications, including Object, Art New Zealand and Urbis. His essays include writings on Janice Shanks, realism in New Zealand Art, and a recent essay on Australian artist Brad Buckley that was published by Artspace, Sydney in a major Buckley monograph. A second essay on Buckleys recent installation project The Light on the Hill will be featured in a forthcoming book. Mr. Levine lives and works in Birmingham.
Ann McMillan is interim director of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham. Prior to taking that position in October, 2007, McMillan served as a board member for the organization. She is retired from SouthTrust/Wachovia where she was Community Affairs Director.
Gia Rabito is the new Executive Director of the Alabama Ballet. She joined the ballet in September, 2007. Rabito is originally from New Orleans where she spent two years as Development Director for Covenant House, a health and human service agency. Prior to that, Rabito spent more than 20 years in the fields of financial services and cable communicationconcentrated in marketing, product development, public relations and corporate giving. She has also worked at an ad agency with a focus on hospitality and non-profit clients. In addition, she is a past board member of the Junior League of New Orleans, Dress for Success New Orleans, and the Southern Institute at Tulane University.
Catherine Rye Gilmore is the President of the Metropolitan Arts Center and Virginia Samford Theatre. She previously served for eight years as Executive Director of the Metropolitan Arts Council, a united arts fund and central arts agency dedicated to promoting and cultivating the arts in Birmingham. Prior to her position at the Council, Ms. Gilmore was Managing Director of the Alabama Ballet professional ballet company for 12 years.
In 2001, she became the driving force behind the $3 million fund-raising campaign to restore and renovate the former UAB Town and Gown Theatre as a multi-purpose arts center for the Birmingham community, now re-named the Virginia Samford Theatre. In 2006, Gilmore succeeded in coordinating the fund raising and expansion efforts for the addition of the Martha Moore Sykes Studio, a rehearsal space and studio theatre at the theatre.
Gilmore was responsible for creating the CityDance inner city outreach program for The Alabama Ballet. Her original arts education project, The Bravo Bus, was awarded the BRAVO television networks Arts for Change Award by the Americans for the Arts national arts advocacy organization for arts programs making a difference in their communities. Performaces were scheduled in more than 60 underserved areas in Alabama over a two-year period. In 2005, Gilmore successfully partnered with HONDA in the coordination of their DREAMLAB arts education project in Birmingham. And, in January 2006, she launched the STARS (Students Take A Role at the Samford) initiative at the Virginia Samford Theatre, an arts education program designed to give students ages 10 through 18 the opportunity to develop their skills in all areas of live theatre with professional educators and performers.
Gilmore received her early arts training in classical ballet in Birmingham and at the School of American Ballet in New York. A professional career in Musical Theatre followed with performances throughout the Southeast, New York and Europe. At Birmingham-Southern College, she majored in Theatre under the direction of famed theatre educator, Dr. Arnold Powell.
Commissioner Shelia Smoot is the first African-American female and the youngest person to ever serve on the five-member Jefferson County Commission. Smoot currently oversees the Department of Information Technology. In her first term, Commissioner Smoot oversaw the Roads and Transportation Department, along with the county's Community, Economic and Workforce Development Department. She was at the helm in establishing a county film commission and the Jefferson County Greenway Commission. She also created the team that established Jefferson County's first major Brownfield, the Titusville Redevelopment Project. She was instrumental in attracting Wachovia Bank's $400 million data center to Jefferson County, also. These and more earned Commissioner Smoot the National Black County Official of the Year Award in 2006.
Smoot currently serves on boards both nationally and locally, but is most proud of her volunteer service with Boy Scouts of America, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, The Urban League and the Jaycees in both Michigan and Alabama. She is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Before entering politics, Smoot worked as an award-winning anchor and investigative journalist known for her hard-hitting "Six on Your Side" investigative reports. She hosted her own weekly statewide program, "Know Your Rights with Shelia Smoot." Commissioner Smoot currently hosts a radio show on WAGG called "Shelia Smoot on Your Side."