CARROLLWOOD – The Carrollwood Cultural Center is offering plenty of new programs to its already packed schedule, but Educational Outreach Director Helen Michaelson said the word needs to get out.
For while several of the usual winter/spring programs are full, there are plenty of programs that haven’t gotten a large response. Michaelson said that while the economy might still be a problem, she’s surprised that the new programs aren’t filling faster.
“We are hiring new people and new instructors all the time,” Michaelson said. “We’ve added to the amount of camps and we’ve tried to get the word out. It’s a little bit disheartening, but this place is so great that I know they will come.”
Just ask Gert, the 16-year-old dog – well, actually, a large puppet – that resides at the cultural center. If Gert can keep smiling, so can everyone else.
“She is so special to us and the people that come here,” Michaelson said. “She is just another reason why this place is so special.”
Gert teaches etiquette to kids, especially on how they should behave in a theater. She said the kids love her.
The Center has already hired a new dance instructor, Sea Lee, who works with Parkinson’s sufferers. There are new camps for music, arts, and dance, and a senior citizens band, New Horizons, that features an 85-year-old member. There are also new private lessons for piano, guitar, violin and percussion. One of the highlights of the new percussion class is a grandmother and grandson who are trying to learn together.
Michaelson has plenty of experience in the local music scene with 35 years of teaching music at middle schools including Webb and Davidson. She has been with the cultural center since it opened in 2008.
“I was here before the doors ever opened,” Michaelson said. “We have so many great people and we have always been able to provide customer service. There’s a lot of work to do, but we have a great community and this gives us a chance to give something back.”
The center survives on a small budget, making ends meet through a combination of classes, county funding, memberships and donations. Michaelson said all donations are welcome.
Some of the new classes that Michaelson said are struggling for students include painting, dance and music.
Michaelson isn’t discouraged. She’s just trying to get the word out.
“We have so much to offer,” she said. “A lot of people drive past here and never know what we have here, but there’s a lot for everyone of all ages. When we can show people what we have here, they always walk away impressed.”
For more on the Carrollwood Cultural Center, call (813) 269-1310 or visit at 4537 Lowell Road.