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Barry Page retiring as Arts Council of Wilson director

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Barry Page is ending his 11-year tenure as executive director of the Arts Council of Wilson at the end of the month.

Page, 64, revealed his decision to retire in March, but he planned to stay on for another year until a replacement was found.

“But my health issues caused me and my family to rethink what was best for me,” he said on Thursday.

In April, Page had heart bypass surgery. The surgery was the same week as the big 50th anniversary party for the Arts Council.

Page said his retirement is the best thing for the future of cultural arts in Wilson.

“I do not have the energy I need to do the 6:30 breakfast meetings and 7:30 p.m. dinner presentations,” he said. “I’m just too old!

Page is back at work after his surgery and health scare and is feeling great. “But I’m the kind of person who won’t quit until I fall down.”

He said he was the same way when he was a Wilson County Schools principal at Hearne and Gardners elementary schools — working many long hours.

“It didn’t bother me then,” he said. “Now it bothers me.”

Jay Gallimore, president and chairman of the board for the Arts Council of Wilson, said Page is a hard worker and a great ambassador for the organization.

“He’s been fantastic,” Gallimore said. “He loves the arts, and he loves the Arts Council. He puts like 150 percent of his effort into it, and he has from the beginning. And he still is.”

Gallimore said Page has many connections and seems to know everyone in Wilson, which has helped him in the role.

During his tenure, which started in August 2006, Page has dealt with many issues. In his letter of resignation he says:

“We made it through the falling of the Boykin Center ceiling, with the help of the city, Wilson County Schools and Barton College; the U.S. economy in 2008; and the very wonderful yet stressful dispensation of the Edna Boykin estate acquisition in 2012.

“The African-American Music Trail conversations and interviews began, and the Vollis Simpson whirligigs memorandum of understanding was reviewed, voted upon and signed in our Arts Council’s library. The Boykin Series committee was formed to help the series survive and prosper while Theater of the American South became a part of our past. Finally, the planets aligned for the renovation of the BB&T community building called the Wilson Arts Center.”

Page doesn’t plan on walking away completely from the Arts Council. He’d like to volunteer to work on archiving the organization’s history. Volunteers with a BB&T Lighthouse Project group have put many hours into the project this year, and he has some finishing touches to add.

“I want future generations to see how wonderful the Arts Council is,” he said, “and what the cultural arts mean to Wilson.

“I love the Arts Council, and I love what we do for the community.”

Gallimore said Page will serve on a part-time, interim basis, starting July 1, until a new director is hired.

The position is being advertised locally and across the region.

Page, whose tenure at the Arts Council was longer than any other executive director, said there are many things he will miss, including the excitement of the annual Holiday Invitational and planning A Banker’s Holiday.

But one thing stands out — opening nights.

“I love opening nights,” he said, for gallery shows and theatrical performances. He loves the excitement and watching how actors go from auditions to the show.

Page and his wife, Diana, will still have plenty to do once he has retired. In addition to other activities, they both have responsibilities with their elderly parents.

Page is not the only one leaving the Arts Council. Christopher Ballance, ACT for Youth director, is leaving to go back to college. And Elisabeth Farnsworth, marketing and education director, has taken a position somewhere else.

Gallimore said those positions will not be filled until a new director is in place and can give his or her input. He said a director might need to be hired for the first ACT for Youth play of the upcoming season.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

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