Bruce Andrews named executive director of the Shelby County Arts Council

Published 1:47 pm Thursday, September 5, 2013

Local painter and blues musician Bruce Andrews was named the new executive director of the Shelby County Arts Council Sept. 3. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Local painter and blues musician Bruce Andrews was named the new executive director of the Shelby County Arts Council Sept. 3. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)


COLUMBIANA – The Shelby County Arts Council has named local artist and musician Bruce Andrews as its new executive director. Andrews, who will officially take over in mid-September, has taught classes with the arts council for about seven years and also serves as the lead vocalist for local blues band 2BLU and the Lucky Stiffs.

Former arts council executive director and current president of the board of directors Terri Sullivan said Andrews brings a “wealth of experience in the performing arts” to the position as well as a large network of contacts within Shelby County.

“I just know that Bruce is going to do an exceptional job with the arts council and our programs,” Sullivan said.

The Shelby County Reporter caught up with Andrews after he accepted his new position. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: When did you decide this is something you wanted to do?

A: I’ve been living in this county for 30 years, and I’ve been an artist the whole time. Here comes the Shelby County Arts Council about 2004. They were always on my radar screen, and then I started teaching classes for them, and in recent years I was able to design and build some classes for them like the ones they did at the juvenile detention center. Those were sort of my conception.

When they said they needed an executive director, I was sort of at two crossroads.  I was at a point in my artistic career where I was looking for something to build, and they are sort of at a point as the arts council that they’ve done such a good job, they’ve created a situation where they really need to grow, and the only way you are going to grow is to have somebody sort of manning the ship pressing constantly.

Q: What is your vision for the arts council?

A: It really sealed the deal for me when they instituted the performance venue over there. I think it’s really unique. I think the sonics in there are incredible. I think it’s classy, and I think we could do some stuff in there that’s culturally relevant and significant. We can create something over here that’s akin to the Bluebird Cafe … People come there primarily to appreciate the music, and in the singer-songwriter cafes like the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, it’s sort of an accepted etiquette that there’s no talking while the music is going on. People come to appreciate the music. It’s a source of income and support for the arts council. We’re kind of teasing that now, and we can create some cash flow. If the people of Columbiana will support it like they have been, and the surrounding Shelby County, we can do something really special over there.

This town is kind of an island. There are no expressway ramps, which is cool, but it’s the county seat, and we’ve got a talent rich county. We’ve got to think of ways to make this a cultural hub.

Q: You said you’re both a musician and an artist. How do you think that those experiences, or even other experiences, are going to help you in your new position?

A: Because we have a gallery and a performance venue adjacent to it, both of those worlds are familiar to me. I’ve done solo shows, and I’ve been both on the curating side picking the artist, and I’ve been the artist. On the other side of the coin, I’ve been a venue manager. My wife and I had a coffee shop for years, and it had a music venue in it. So I’ve been a venue manager and a performer, and I’ve been a gallery exhibitor and a curator, so I’ve been on both sides of the fence in both instances.

Q: What are some of the first things you plan on doing as executive director?

A: Number one, it’s got to be profitable. I’m going to be actively thinking of ways to make it profitable. We’re going to seek every government grant that we’re eligible for, but at the same time we want to be as independent as possible. When I say independent, I mean that we create a value to the community that they’re willing to pay for.

Number two would be to take what (former director of arts and education) Susan (Gordon) has done so well in creating a base of classes and adding some more that have a bit of an edge to it, a more modern flair, maybe more digital art classes. I’m definitely going to do some acting and some filmmaking classes. We may even do some drum circles.

Number three is to have an ongoing concerted effort of branding and awareness, and that includes social networking.

Q: What are you excited about?

A: For me, I haven’t done one thing in a long time, since probably 1994, where I was doing a concerted effort on one big thing, and I’m excited about the fact that I’m going into it eyes widen because I’ve worked with the arts council. I’m excited and honored to pick up where Susan (Gordon) is leaving off. I think her and Terri (Sulllivan) have done an awesome job, and I think they see the need for somebody being full-time, and I’m just excited to be that guy.

Sometimes you take jobs because you need the money. Sometimes you take jobs because you have to move. And then every once in awhile it’s the right place right time. You say to yourself, “This is obviously what I need to be doing.” I’d say it’s the right place right time.