By CHRISSY MURPHY, The News Herald
MORGANTON, NC (AP) — Cresting the hill on South Sterling Street at Broughton Hospital, drivers coming into Morganton have seen the red bricks of a building standing out against the green leaves of surrounding trees.
Now, though, the bricks are adorned with a clear marker of what the building holds – Morganton’s home for theater and arts.
CoMMA Performing Arts Center got a facelift featuring signage on two sides of the building that aims to help visitors identify the building better. One of the signs is visible as far away as South Sterling Street coming into the city.
“I am so pleased that you can see it from (South Sterling Street),” said Sharon Jablonski, director of the city’s department of cultural and creative development.
On the side of the building that’s visible coming down the hill on South Sterling Street, the CoMMA logo stands out in white against a black background, with the tragedy and comedy masks to the left.
The sign on the front of the building facing College Street shows the CoMMA logo, with four color photos showing dancers and musicians beneath the logo.
“We’ve been trying to make some very positive changes down there,” Jablonski said.
Morganton City Council members approved the installation of the signage at their March meeting, agreeing to a $48,262.50 contract with SpeedPro of Charlotte. The city already had budgeted $25,000 for a new sign.
Council members also approved a contract with Custom Marketing Insights and Solutions for three months’ worth of marketing services at $11,000.
The marketing plan, Jablonski said, heavily relies on data to drive outreach and better understand target consumers.
Jablonski said CoMMA ticketholders come from 43 different zip codes, including some from out of state. The new marketing plan relies heavily on user data to drive advertisements to those who may be interested in the arts.
“I want to keep us in front of people who know about us, I want to get in front of the people who’ve never heard of us and then we’re trying to reach a broader audience altogether in ages and diversity,” Jablonski said.
She said CoMMA also is working to diversify its lineup for the next season, which she hopes will be announced at the beginning of June.
A sound study recently was conducted at CoMMA to determine how the city could best address issues with sound not reaching all parts of the theater equally.
The results of that study found an expensive solution, but Jablonski said they want to make sure they have all their ducks in a row before getting started on that work.
“It hit in the middle of that, when I was asking for that (sound study), I said, ‘you know what, guys? I need to go back to what I know works and what works the best for anything and that is to create a masterplan,’” Jablonski said.
She said the city hopes to have a theater consultant and an architect hired around the beginning of July, and spend August and September designing a masterplan for CoMMA.
“Our goal is to work on creating a masterplan and having those folks review our building from top to bottom, from outside to inside,” Jablonski said. “Looking at everything from parking to the size of the lobby, the restroom situation, handicap seating situation, the backstage and the lack of storage. There is no such thing as storage in that building.”
She said she’s excited to get that process underway.
“That gives us a really solid footing,” Jablonski said.
She said she hopes the combined efforts to improve CoMMA will draw in more bosses.
“I think people just do not realize what a gem that is in a town our size,” Jablonski said.
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