Q&A with Melissa PaolercioNov 24, 2021 08:19AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
the hardship of the 2020 pandemic that saw the two-month closing of
The Center for the Creative Arts, its Executive Director Melissa
Paolercio and her colleagues began a vision for the future of this
well-established arts organization. Recently, Greenville
& Hockessin Life
met with Melissa to talk about the future of CCArts, its continuing
mission and the eclectic group of guests she'd like to see at her
Greenville & Hockessin Life: How have you, Program Director Jennifer Hartz and your instructors been able to pivot during COVID-19? Talk about how CCArts was – and has – been able to continue its educational mission during a pandemic.
Melissa: The Center was closed for 15 weeks between March 2020 and June 2020, which was a really difficult time for all of us. Not only were we personally coping with the uncertainty of what would happen, we were also running this non-profit that serves the community, so like many other non-profits, we found ways to move our mission on-line. We started some on-line classes, and some free open studio time on ZOOM.
We were very pleased to open back in June of 2020 for Summer Camp. It was a relief when we were open again, because part of our essence is found in the power of gathering.
While we begin to see encouraging signs, arts organizations like CCArts must still be mindful of many safety protocols that are in place to continue to help deter the spread of COVID-19. What safety measures are now in place?
We still require masks regardless of vaccination status in the building for all ages, and that is in large part to protect a good portion of our community – the younger folks who come here to learn who have not eligible to receive the vaccination until just recently. We still do a rigorous cleaning protocol of every classroom, and we're still limiting class sizes and encouraging social distancing, as well.
In terms of safety, we're perhaps on the more conservative side here, but it's because we have quite a few people in our community who are members of vulnerable populations.
You became the executive director of CCArts in 2019, and no doubt, you arrived with ideas for where the organization needed to expand its footprint, as well as further defining its definition and mission. With the hope that the pandemic will continue to wane, where are we seeing signs of your vision being manifested at CCArts?
I have been so lucky to have been well supported, not just by Jennifer but by the board of directors, who have placed a lot of confidence in me and my leadership abilities. We took the time during the pandemic to work on a strategic plan, that we are about to launch. When I walked into CCArts for the first time, I felt the history of gathering, the artistic environment of being welcomed, so what we're trying to with the strategic plan is to message that out to the communities we serve.
Everyone who has ever taken a class here knows what that feeling is, and we want everyone familiar with CCArts to know that feeling – to be in a safe place and to take artistic risks, to feel like they are valued for who they are.
My hope is that this building is bustling with activity, made by people who are trying things for the first time and learning about themselves through the arts.
As the world reopens, my hope is that we kick the doors open with huge welcoming arms for people of all abilities. It's the core of our mission. It's what we are here to do.
CCArts is an ever-expanding treasure trove of artistic and creative opportunities. What new programs can the readers of Greenville & Hockessin Life partake in with the coming of the next semester in early 2022?
In the winter semester, we continue to welcome back our glass fusion teacher as well as re-introduce a stained-art artist, who will teach a class. We will also be welcoming a new teaching artist who will be doing some devised theater work – theater that is made up on the spot. It allows the students to make up their own words and therefore build up his or her own self-esteem. It allows them to say, 'I wrote that and that is my line, and I get to say that and be the character that I am envisioning in my head.' It's an incredible process to watch a group of people come together with just a thread of an idea and see where it takes them.
We're also happy to welcome back our collaboration with “Fun A Day,” a Delaware organization that encourages people to create art every day for one month. We have a large gallery here, and this building is bursting at the seams with artwork from amateur and professional artists. It's been incredible to see the cross-section of people who take this challenge on and show off what they've been able to create.
You have an extensive background in the theater arts that includes a BFA in Acting, an MFA in Theater Management from the Yale School of Drama, and management of several regional theaters. In what ways does CCArts' theater programs serve to inspire those who enroll in classes?
Nowadays, we live in a world of escape, whether it's through books, video games and social media. What I love about theater is that it offers that same sense of escape. You get to play someone else. It allows you to imagine and test out pieces of yourself and do so within the guise of a character. In so many forms of artistic expression, artists work by themselves, but in theater, you work in collaboration with others.
Even if you don't aspire to become the next Meryl Streep, being involved in theater – whether it's through classes at CCArts or with a school or a community production – creates life-long skills that enhance your life.
Describe the feeling you get when you walk down the main corridor of CCArts and see creativity bursting from every classroom.
It is energizing and incredibly inspiring. I have always believed in the healing power of the arts, but seeing how the pandemic threatened to shut down our creativity, I feel it even more now. When I walk down the hall and see everything happening at the same moment – theater in the auditorium, Irish Dance in the dance studio and glass fusion in another classroom – it is energizing and inspiring. When you create, you connect.
Seeing those full rooms again with increased enrollment is a glimpse into the future of CCArts – to re-engage people, and remind them how critical it is to explore themselves and others through the arts.
What is your favorite place in Greenville and Hockessin?
We love La Tonalteca in Lantana Square. My family – I call them my team – and I have had such wonderful times connecting with each over some incredible food. I also love the Hockessin Book Shelf, because I'm a big book nerd, and I think Wild Birds Unlimited is a fantastic place, too.
You throw a dinner party and get to invite anyone – famous or not, living or not. Who would we see around that dinner table?
Brene Brown, the professor, lecturer, author and podcast host. Her work has really changed my life and I listen to her podcast, and it would be wonderful to get her to the table. I would also invite Sean Evans, the host of Hot Ones, in which he interviews celebrities while they eat progressively hotter chicken wings. The premise for the show sounds ridiculous, except for the fact that he is one of the most skilled interviewers I have ever watched work.
I am mildly obsessed with Kurt Cobain at the moment, so even though he is no longer with us, the deal is that I can invite anyone. I would definitely have my partner at the table. He's not only my wing man, but he's an amazing cook.
Finally, what food or item can always be found in your refrigerator?
Good cheeses. I am the worst kind of Italian, because I can't cook and I don't like pasta, but I do love cheese.
For a complete listing of all upcoming classes at The Center for the Creative Arts – as well as the Center's safety protocols – visit www.ccarts.org.
The Center for the Creative Arts is located at 410 Upper Snuff Mill Road, Hockessin, Del. 19707.
Richard L. Gaw
DSC 1240 Photo by Richard L. Gaw Melissa Paolercio, executive director of the Center for the Creative Arts.
CCArts Teen Pottery Class Photos courtesy of CCArts A teen pottery class at CCArts.
CCEArts Oil Paintig Adult Class Classes at CCArts intend to bring out the artist in everyone.
CCArts Summer Camp 6 CCArts summer camps open up the creative imagination of each camper.
Wizard of Oz Cast Theater classes at CCArts encourage students to create through collaboration.
Slug: Greenville & Hockessin Q & A