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July 18. 2013 8:53PM

Concord arts center recognized with 'championship' award

CONCORD — Although a banner will not hang among the classic chandeliers, the Capitol Center for the Arts celebrated a championship Thursday.

CCA was selected as a Champion in Action by Citizens Bank, an honor that carries much more than just a title for the winners. Only nonprofit organizations are eligible for the award, which includes a $35,000 grant from the Citizens Bank Foundation.

Executive Director Nicolette Clarke had no trouble smiling as she posed for photos while holding a large, symbolic check in the amount of $35,000.

“I’ve always wanted to be on this side of one of these,” Clarke quipped during the formal announcement at the Kimball House, the stately mansion on South Main Street that houses the arts center’s administrative offices.

Clarke later thanked Citizens Bank for the award, then all who have contributed in a community-wide effort to bring performing arts back to the capitol area.

“I cannot accept this award without stopping to acknowledge the people who make up our championship team,” Clarke said. “Starting with the founders and early volunteers — those amazing individuals who believed you could make a vibrant performing arts center out of a derelict theater and a historic mansion and convincing the community to go along on the journey.”

Clarke said she automatically associates the word “champion” with athletics, then noted some of the parallels sports and live arts share, including teamwork and sacrifice.

Those two qualities have been essential in creating and developing the arts center since it opened in 1995, bringing back to life the former Capitol Theater six years after the once-grand venue closed in 1989.

“The organization has really made a significant and profound impact in the vitality of downtown Concord,” said Joe Carelli, president of Citizens Bank New Hampshire. “It creates jobs. It has offered educational experience for so many of our children and really provides a venue for community events and bolsters local businesses.”

In addition to the funding, Citizens also provides marketing and volunteer support as part of the community development initiative that started in 2002.

Gov. Maggie Hassan also attended the event, congratulating CCA for the recognition it has earned.

“Over the years, you have not only helped make Concord a cultural destination, but have also strengthened the state by advancing the arts, spurring the economy and supporting good jobs,” Hassan said.

The remarks were all kept brief, then the formal part of the event ended with a preview of this weekend’s production of “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” a production of one of CCA’s youth programs.

Gracie Kontak, a 14-year-old playing the lead role of Ariel, didn’t make a sound as she waited for the music to start, then shifted quickly into character and sang “Part of Your World,” which drew a collective round of “wows” and a standing ovation.

Clarke said it has been a challenge getting younger generations away from the online world to experience the atmosphere of a live performance and learn about its history.

“Experiencing it live — there’s nothing better. We really try to promote that,” Clarke said.

dalden@unionleader.com


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