Oncenter's Terri Toennies brings fresh perspective

Syracuse arts community needs leadership

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of interviews with people prominent in areas on the agenda for the city under a new administration. This week the discussion of arts in the city is with Oncenter President and CEO Terri Toennies.

You grew up in the area, went away to learn your craft, and came back. What are you bringing to help the local arts community?

My hope that I'm bringing back, is the understanding that Syracuse can be a major player for cultural arts, and that we have all the tools, we just need the positive energy of people all coming together, instead of all these independent silos trying to do things on their own. If we all sat around one big table: city, county, cultural arts council, symphony, opera--all the arts and cultural things we have in town--and determined what are we as a whole community going to do, the power would be huge.

Unfortunately, I think that everyone stays in their little silos, and they try to do a little bit of everything, and when it doesn't work, they don't try it anymore.

With this Syracuse Crunch outdoor game they're going to do, it's an unbelievable event. It's all been really because the team believed in it and they're going to prove to the city of Syracuse that we can be a national player. The NCAA event coming up--all of these are events that bring people in from outside, so why can't it be the same with arts programming? Wicked, 48,000 people came to watch that show, and some people enjoyed it so much they bought tickets in Rochester and Buffalo. All of the area restaurants, parking lots, everybody benefits. Employment grows.

Studies show that the economic impact of the arts is $4 to $5 from every $1 spent. Do you think folks in this community understand that?

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