SHERIDAN — The WYO Performing Arts and Education Center began collecting feedback from community members last week on how they would like to see the center, and its offerings, continue to expand as the WYO develops its five-year strategic plan in the coming months.
WYO executive director Erin Butler said the plan will act as a guide for the nonprofit as it looks to capitalize on the growth that has already been realized.
“We’re kind of at this great and exciting precipice for the WYO theater,” Butler said. “We’ve grown from this small 483-seat theater into something larger — with the black box and the partnerships with the college and we added the Hallmark space to the north. So we’re, at this point, a pretty large facility with lots of available spaces.”
One of the goals of the strategic plan will be to determine how the theater can use those spaces to expand services and accommodate the community’s ambitions.
Michelle Sullivan, who conducted three focus groups with community members for the WYO last week, said residents did not want to see any major changes to the way the theater operates, but rather build on what it is already doing.
She said residents praised the theater’s ability to connect the community with outside artists and performances while also serving as a platform for local artists.
In terms of areas of growth, Sullivan said the focus group participants wanted to see the center develop more youth and education programs and broaden the reach of who is able to participate in events hosted by the WYO.
“There was a lot of discussion about how important it is to connect young people to theater,” Sullivan said.
Butler also pointed to education and youth engagement as one area where the WYO has potential to grow. The center already offers some programs in those areas, but Butler said the organization would like to explore ways to leverage its partnership with Sheridan College to expand on those programs.
In addition to charting out future goals, Butler said the strategic plan will also function as an audit of the WYO’s current operations, and give her, and board members, an opportunity to ensure the center’s resources are being used efficiently.
“We’ll probably take a really hard look at our budget,” Butler said. “Because we do receive a number of donations, which we’re grateful for, and we want to make sure we’re being responsible with that money.”
The WYO will host a day-long planning session with its board of directors and staff members Saturday.
After that meeting, Butler will review all of the feedback on the project and identify around five goals for the theater moving forward. Many of those will likely be long term, but Butler said the plan will include smaller projects that build toward the overarching goals.
“The beautiful thing is about a strategic plan is that it’s a working document, so it’s not set in stone,” Butler said. “So maybe we make one giant goal that we realize is either not attainable or not where we want to end up, that can always be adjusted.”