"One of the things I feel really good about is we have really broadened the demographic. We still have a core audience between 50 and 60, but with performers like Scotty McCreery and Jason Mraz, we had a younger audience," Wellington said. "We've purposely tried to build that age group."
The performance hall's relatively modest size is both a challenge and a positive attribute.
The West Virginia Symphony's move from the Charleston Municipal Auditorium to the smaller Clay Center means it now performs over two nights rather than one during its concert season.
Popular performers who can attract large audiences pass over the Clay Center.
On the other hand, audiences benefit in many ways.
"I think acoustically it's as good as anything you could find," Wellington said. "And I think one big difference with a big city (hall) is it is a lot more intimate. You can actually see the performer."
The art component of the Clay Center has benefited from the move. The center's art museum is about four times the size of its predecessor at Sunrise.
"Up on the hill, we could take only smaller exhibits," Wellington said. "I think Arif (Khan, the curator) is really taking a different approach to the exhibits. He's been working with more living artists, which I think is really good."
Education continues to be an important mission for the Clay Center and Wellington said she's particularly proud of programs such as one working with Boone County students.
"We see kids four days a week, so there's a lot of depth to that. You can't change a kid's life in an hour, but you can have a long-lasting impact," she said.
While Charleston might not be the top destination for some performers, the Clay Center has earned a spot on the radar, Wellington said. She credits education director Lakin Cooke and theater and sales director Rob Rosano for building relationships with managers, agents and promoters.
"The tour managers now know who we are and they know the quality of the hall - and the dressing rooms," Wellington said. "When you first open, they don't know you exist and then it takes time to develop those relationships."
Charleston's location within easy traveling distance of bigger cities such as Cleveland, Columbus, Lexington, Louisville, Richmond and Washington, D.C., is an advantage.
"We are now - and this wasn't true when we first opened - we are now a venue that they call when they're trying to fill in a tour," Wellington said.
Wellington herself has settled nicely into what surely seemed like Southern living when she first moved here.
"When I first came it was a culture shock. I talked 10 times faster than I do now," she said, laughing. "I love it here. And I am very proud of how we've grown. I really feel like we're definitely going in the right direction."
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.
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