VRCFA starts Arts Buddy Program


Joseph Pratt

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The Vern Riffe Center for the Arts (VRCFA) is encouraging friendship among its patrons that they hope will not only grow new relationships, but will also foster local arts and entertainment venues of all types.

The organization is encouraging these friendships through a new program that VRCFA Director Joe Patti is implementing in trial called the Arts Buddy Program.

Patti said he hopes to have people who are buying single tickets register to see shows as Art Buddies. Once they have registered, they will be given special seats at the shows, which will be next to another Art Buddy. The seats will have notes attached to the backs of the seats in front of them with conversation starters for them to use and get to know each other better.

Patti explained that his idea came from efforts to tackle a negative study involving a decline in reoccurring patrons.

The study that sparked the program was completed by the National Endowment for the Arts, which found that one of the biggest impediments to attending an arts event is that people did not have someone with whom to attend an event.

This trial solution was inspired by a Brazilian bus company that reserved seats for people wanting to make friends with other bus riders.

The Arts Buddy Program is designed to find like-minded individuals who are looking to meet others who share an appreciation for art around the Portsmouth area.

“There are a lot of people who would like to see shows, or go check out a new gallery, but don’t because they might not have anyone to go with, and feel like they shouldn’t go alone,” Patti said. “We’re not specifically setting up a 70-year-old and another 70-year-old, but anyone who is interested in conversation and the arts.”

Like the Brazilian bus company, suggestions for conversation topics will be available in an envelope attached to the seat backs in front of the participants. Some of the suggestions will be generic, others specific to the performance that evening.

“Some of the questions and topics you might see will be generic ones, such as asking how long the friends think it took to load the scenery in for Broadway shows, or facts about the theatre, such as the mural in the lobby being made of paper and silk,” Patti said. “Some will also be personal, such as favorite art activity or favorite show as a child, because when you get people talking about what they’ve loved since childhood, they often bring so much enthusiasm and joy to the conversation.

Patti explained that the goal is to help people find new friends with whom they can attend art events at the VRCFA, Southern Ohio Museum, Portsmouth Little Theatre, Port City Pub, and so on.

“The point is to, hopefully, introduce our patrons to one another. We hope they will enjoy seeing shows with each other and will even take it outside of the Vern Riffe Center and go see a show at the museum or wherever,” Patti explained. “When you have that friend you like to see shows with, you typically have a relationship with them past the arts and we hope to help with that.”

Those who are interested in participating may visit or call the McKinley Box Office at 740-351-3600 and asked to be seated in one of the Arts Buddy locations. After the performance, the VRCFA may contact participants for feedback about the program.

Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.

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