Today we’d like to introduce you to Ms. Buncie Hay Lanners.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Ms. Buncie Hay. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
As a sixth generation Newton Countian, I have been in many ways a “home grown” business leader, having lived most of my life in the county. I was valedictorian of the 1979 Class of Newton County High School, where I served as Co-President of the Student Body, a Soprano in the chorus and in All-State Chorus, as well as a winner in Literary Meet competitions and a national winner in public speaking in the 4H Club. I am a 1983 Phi Beta Kappa Magna Cum Laude graduate of Davidson College. My experiences growing up in Newton County, going to public schools, and being a part of a real community gave me the passion for using the arts to raise the exposure level of the community’s children, impact the quality of life, and be a part of economic and community development.
After moving back to Covington from my college years and a brief hiatus working for AT&T and Bank South in Atlanta, I replaced my mom on the board of the then Concert Association of Newton County. After serving for five years, I was asked to become the Executive Director in 2001. With the substantial growth in the Young Artists Programs, especially in dance with the founding of Covington Regional Ballet, in 2002, the name of the organization changed to The Arts Association in Newton County, establishing the organization as the umbrella arts organization for the community. I have served as Executive Director for 17 1/2 years, growing the business from approximately $150,000 to $1M during those 17 years, and growing the geographic service area from Newton County to an 8 county area.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Small-town non-profit work is especially challenging. Our organization receives no county or city operational funding and is entirely dependent on individual, foundation, and corporate donations. Being in the outer loop of Atlanta is a challenge, often making us ineligible for grants from Atlanta area businesses. The recession was especially difficult in 2007-08 on our area with 70% of our school students still qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Given this milieu, the organization realized that to stay alive, diversification of revenue was key; parents wanted the programs for their children and could and would pay subsidized fees (not on the level of fees in Atlanta for the same services). Therefore, we grew our classes and performing groups through our Young Artists programs exponentially. Given the financial climate, our scholarships soared past the $30,000 mark. With these challenges, the broader community realized what a gem the programs are and have rallied to support them. Funding, however, is still the constant struggle.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
The Arts Association in Newton County is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dependent on corporate, foundation, and individual donors to provide quality arts programming and education. Serving Newton County for over 30 years, the organization now serves 8 counties and over 60 schools through its adult and Young Artists Programs and concerts, becoming a regional provider of the arts. Annually the Association brings the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to its Porter Performing Arts Center; in 2018, they will celebrate their 19th performance in Covington. Programs and performances featured include The Covington Regional Ballet Company and School, offering a pre-professional, professional and recreational dance curricula and summer intensives, Oxford Singers, three auditioned choirs for 1st-12th grades, Oxford Acting Company for 8th-12th grades, Newton County Community Band, Newton County Youth Strings with violin, viola and cello private and group Suzuki lessons, Creative Kids Camp, Musical Theatre Camp, Acting Camps and Classes, Dance Intensives, Music and Movement, Princess and Super-Hero camps for young children, a full arts series of events and performances including luncheon & summer evening concerts on the square, and True Colours Youth Art Exhibit.
We are best known for the artistic integrity of our training programs and performances. When parents drive from 30 plus miles away for the training, you know you are successful. In addition, we truly set ourselves apart with our partnership with the Newton County School System providing five in-school performances of three shows each for 7500 students a year; many of these students would never get the opportunity to get this kind of exposure to cultural events.
What were you like growing up?
I was always a leader, a teacher, a singer, a lover of the arts! I was Maria in the Sound of Music my senior year of high school which made me enamored with musical theater. I get to relive my childhood fantasies through our young artists programs–the annual musicals through our auditioned choirs and acting company, the ballets and contemporary dances, the strings recitals, the acting classes, the fall choral performances!