As part of the season of thanks, we continue to feature a few individuals, known and unsung, who are helping to keep our art community strong and vibrant. Today, we are giving thanks to the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro President Walker Sanders.
Walker is the first to say his wife Dabney is the arts person in the family. Yes, that may be true, but Walker is a visionary for what the arts, blended with community, can be in Greensboro. With the support of his board, CFGG has played a pivotal role in public art, placemaking, and strategic visioning for arts and culture.
In 2008, a new endowment was created at CFGG to support public art. An innovative model allowed individuals in the community to contribute to the endowment with the goal of $3 million to support the permanent placement of culturally significant works of public art. Over the years, the art selected ranged from a “lend/lease” program to temporary to now, permanent pieces. From Dennis Oppenheim’s leased sculpture “Entrance to a Garden” in 2011 to the iconic Janet Elcheman piece “Where We Met” in LeBauer Park, the Public Art Endowment is raising the bar on public art in Greensboro. Regarding LeBauer Park, Carolyn LeBauer trusted Walker and CFGG to build a park that would become a community asset—LeBauer Park. One would frequently see Walker at the work site in mud boots, checking on everything—the children’s area, dog park, garden, and splash pad. Details matter.
These accomplishments aside, the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts may be Walker’s catalytic project in the arts. In 2012, Walker convened the Greensboro Performing Arts Task Force (GPAC), chaired by Louise Brady and Judge Henry Frye. The group evaluated if it was economically feasible to build a successful performing arts venue with DPAC and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, each less than 2 hours away. GPAC also dug into the current state of the arts in Greensboro. Once the data validating viability was in, Walker and Kathy Manning made it happen, from raising funds to negotiating with the City to building enthusiasm and community pride.
The Tanger Center is a shining beacon in downtown Greensboro. And it is driving economic development. In less than five months, it has driven over $15 million in economic activity. The astounding thing is, while these projects have been tremendously successful, he still worries about our local, homegrown arts. He is an advisor to ArtsGreensboro, an advocate for direct public support, a cheerleader for community-based arts and placemaking, and a supporter of many initiatives that drive creativity and activation.
For this, and so much more, we are grateful for and give thanks to Walker for his commitment to the community and his tireless advocacy and leadership.