ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

New CLC Performing Arts Center director shares his vision, goals for the community college

Joey Yow was recently named director of the Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center and replaces longtime director Patrick Spradlin.

Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center Director Joey Yow sits for a photo Thursday, July 21, 2022, in a Central Lakes College theater workshop.
Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center Director Joey Yow sits for a photo Thursday, July 21, 2022, in a Central Lakes College theater workshop.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
We are part of The Trust Project.

BRAINERD — Joey Yow is no stranger to the stage. But the recently-hired Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center director is new to the Brainerd lakes area.

Yow was one of two new people added last month by the community college to lead its Performing Arts Center; Cory Johnson will serve as theater faculty within the liberal arts and sciences program at the college.

“We're really excited to be here because my wife's family lives in Merrifield,” Yow said. “We have been predominantly on the East Coast for the past 13 years — longer than that, actually — but we originally were in Pittsburgh for a while, and that's where all of our children were born.”

Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center Director Joey Yow looks at posters on the wall of past productions outside his office on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center Director Joey Yow looks at posters on the wall of past productions outside his office on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

The 37-year-old husband and father of three recently relocated to Merrifield from New Jersey when he was hired to replace longtime director Patrick Spradlin, who retired in May.

“When this opportunity came up, it felt like just a wonderful chance to lead an organization that seemed really exciting and also to be closer to her family, so it was a really serendipitous turn of events,” Yow said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A history in performing arts

CLC has a deep commitment to the arts, with its rich history in performing arts, visual arts and music, officials said in last month’s announcement about Yow’s hiring, and the college is known for its work with Brainerd Community Theatre and dramatic arts instruction.

“I had spent some years working in professional theater and then went into America Corps,” Yow said. “I volunteered with them for a year and that got me interested in going into education. And then during my time teaching, I got my master's at Drexel University in arts administration.”

The CLC Performing Arts Center is directed by an independent board of advisors. This volunteer advisory board provides guidance as to the “strategic operational aspects of the CLCPAC (and) making sure the organizational goals and mission are followed.”

The center’s mission is “to create an environment where local performing artists can develop their craft, to share with our community diverse, high-quality arts programming and to grow a community of practitioners and lovers of the performing arts.”

Joey Yow looks at an advertisement for "Sister Act" the musical while outside Chalberg Theatre on Thursday, July 21, 2022, on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College.
Joey Yow looks at an advertisement for "Sister Act" the musical while outside Chalberg Theatre on Thursday, July 21, 2022, on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

“I feel so grateful to be joining a community filled with this much generosity, talent and commitment to bringing the best artistic experiences to the Brainerd lakes area,” Yow stated in a community announcement emailed Friday, July 22.

“I had been interested in performing since I was very young. And I think even from the time I was in middle school, I knew that acting was something that I felt really passionate about."

Building on a solid foundation

CLC President Hara Charlier said in the news release about Yow’s hiring that the arts are an integral part of the college, which has campuses in Brainerd and Staples.

Yow most recently served as the managing director of Luna Stage and technical director of Newark Academy in New Jersey. His experience in visual and performing art programming will be a great addition to the CLC community, according to CLC officials.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I started doing a lot of community theater from the time I was in my freshman year of high school and then it was just my obsession throughout all of high school,” Yow said. “I find theater to be a place of creating empathy and good storytelling. And those are things that attract me — finding ways of entertaining an audience, which I think is really important, but also finding ways of creating stories that people can view together and kind of come to a shared understanding about.”

Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center Director Joey Yow looks at children rehearse on stage Thursday, July 21, 2022, in a summer youth theater workshop in the Chalberg Theatre of the college's Brainerd campus.
Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center Director Joey Yow looks at children rehearse on stage Thursday, July 21, 2022, in a summer youth theater workshop in the Chalberg Theatre of the college's Brainerd campus.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Yow had stated at the time of his hiring he looked forward to “building upon the excellent foundations of artistic programming” presented by CLC with artists and stories that “entertain, inspire and connect” with the members of the Brainerd lakes community.

“I think one of the things about doing educational theater is there's this balance of we want to do shows that the community is going to feel connected to, excited by, that they want to see and that the students want to be a part of that they want to perform,” Yow said.

“But, at the same time, we're also trying to pick shows that are going to add something to their experience and not just be, you know, a replacement for Netflix one evening. ... I want to pick the shows that resonate with this audience … that this community wants to come and see — and pick shows that our local talent wants to be a part of.”

Theater program

In 1968, the theater program at Brainerd Community College began under the direction of instructor Bob Dryden. That program, a student-and-community-based theatre, flourishes to this day, according to a college’s history of the program.

“We are proud to serve many audiences and celebrate the impact of performance — through the CLC Performing Arts Center, through our academic programs in both theatre and music and throughout our communities,” Charlier stated in the announcement of Yow’s hiring.

The program saw the addition of two theater spaces at the college's Brainerd campus: the Chalberg Theatre and the Black Box (renamed the Dryden Theatre) after the theater program began.

“I think the thing that is most daunting is knowing that I'm coming into a program that has been highly celebrated and robust for several years,” Yow said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Spradlin started the Cultural Arts Series in 2006. In the first two years of operation, it featured staged readings of plays, local poets and musicians, and a locally produced film festival.

“I'm looking for an opportunity to build upon what has been done before me and make sure that I'm continuing the legacy and the quality that people have come to expect from the program,” Yow said.

CLC Performing Arts Center

The designation of the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center in 2012 as an arts affiliate of the college assured the continued viability of both Brainerd Community Theatre and the Cultural Arts Series, according to the college.

“We want everyone who is a student here to know that they have a place here as well, whether to audition, to volunteer, to come see a show,” Yow said. “We want this to not feel like a separate entity. We want it to feel like a cohesive part of the school.”

MORE ARTICLES BY FRANK LEE:
Brainerd Community Theatre will put on a production of “9 to 5: The Musical” at Central Lakes College. The musical comedy by Dolly Parton is based on her 1980 hit movie about women in the workplace.

Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences Anne Nelson Fisher stated earlier that students with an interest in performing on stage or in learning about the history and process of how live theater works will continue to have those opportunities at the college.

“I want there to be a balance of shows that we just come and are taken up by the thrill of it all. And then there are live shows that we come and we are excited to sit and think about the questions that they pose. … I want people to be excited to come here,” Yow said.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

Related Topics: CLC PERFORMING ARTSTHEATERMUSICCENTRAL LAKES COLLEGEBRAINERD
I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
What To Read Next
Area listings of agendas
An area listing of birth announcements.
An area listing of birth announcements.
An area listing of birth announcements.