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Kravis Center Board Chair: Palm Beach County No Longer A Retirement Community

Storify.com/Julian Restrep

Palm Beach County's demographics and arts patrons are rapidly changing, and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts intends to keep up. 

"Palm Beach County is no longer a retirement community," says Jane Mitchell, who was recently elected as board chair for the 28-year-old cultural institution. 

Mitchell, who was elected in April and will assume the role on July 1, says the county's population has become more diverse in recent years, with the "international appeal of Miami" extending to the northern reaches of South Florida. To better accommodate evolving tastes and interests, the center plans to a conduct a comprehensive strategic planning process in the coming months, Mitchell says.

"It's time now to refresh the whole process and see where we are," Mitchell says, adding that tourism likely will play an important role in the center's future.

The organization last conducted a similar inquiry six or seven years ago, looking to subscribers and other community members to tell them what was lacking from the center's offerings. That's when Kravis Center board and staff members realized there was a hunger for more comedy and Broadway offerings, Mitchell says.

Subsequently, the organization has booked more stand-up comedy acts in recent years, including Jerry Seinfeld, Kathy Griffin and Whoopi Goldberg. Later this month, they'll host Daniel Tosh, an often-raunchy comedian best known as the host of Comedy Central's "Tosh.O."

The Kravis Center has also stepped up its Broadway schedule, actively booking desired shows instead of taking whatever was available to them in between other tour dates. The 2013-2014 season will include big-ticket items like "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" and "War Horse," among other shows. 

Mitchell hopes the upcoming planning process is similarly able to uncover specific needs and goals for the organization. Having an actionable plan makes it easier to develop "a road map on where we need to go" Mitchell says. 

Mitchell -- who comes from a strong performing arts background -- said the Kravis Center will likely work with consultants and other professionals to conduct polls and surveys of the local community. In addition to members and regular attendees, Mitchell says the organization wants to reach out to an underserved audience to better understand what is missing in Palm Beach County's performing arts scene.

"There's no question. Audiences have a broader appetite for more types of entertainment and performances," Mitchell says of today's audiences in Palm Beach County.

When the Kravis Center first opened in 1992, it catered mostly to the classic arts, like classical music and ballet. As the organization grew and expanded its educational outreach, the schedule (and audience) diversified. 

Recent programs demonstrate how the mission has evolved and offerings have become more "innovative," Mitchell says. For example, last season, Palm Beach Opera -- which hosts its mainstage performances at Kravis Center -- created "Tweet seats" for some of its performances. The promotion gave social-media-savvy guests an opportunity to connect with fellow audience members and performers. It was an example of the kind of "open minded" approach Palm Beach Opera takes with its projects.

Meanwhile, a new cabaret series (presented in a black box theater) and P.E.A.K.(Provocative Entertainment  at Kravis) speak to the "sophistication of people who want to stay connected to the performing arts" in the community.

Mitchell projects continued growth for the Kravis Center, particularly as it evaluates where things will go down the line. She credits this -- in part -- to the center's numerous youth-centered and educational activities, which help to integrate a new audience into the organization: "We've become a part of the fabric of the community."  

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