From Nothing to ThrivingPhoto (above) credit: EverythingBrevard
By Cindi Courbat
Steve Janicki looks comfortable and right at home behind his average-size work desk perfectly centered in his modest office space located near the rotunda room adjacent to the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts.
Janicki’s décor is no frills and minimal with a slight mid-century art deco vibe. To his left, turquoise horizontal blinds hang loosely over a long row of windows; behind him a deep burgundy wall is almost empty except for a square-shaped op art picture of a saxophone player and a small horizontal photograph tucked inside a simple wooden frame.
The framed photo features Janicki, former King Center Marketing Director Nance Burroughs, John Vallentino (AEG artist rep) and one of the King Center’s all-time top acts, former Beatle, Ringo Starr.
“I seldom get starstruck, but once in awhile…” Janicki admits with a smile. “Just imagine, a Beatle, who changed the music conscious of the world, was right here in Brevard County, right here on the King Center stage.”
The Maxwell C. King Center
A seasoned concert promoter, Janicki is the executive director of the King Center, which opened its doors on April 11, 1988 on the Melbourne campus of Brevard Community College (now Eastern Florida State College).
“The Melbourne campus was slated for a small 600-seat performing arts hall. Before that, most of the arts and entertainment offered by the college took place on the Cocoa campus. But College President Dr. Maxwell King saw future growth in South Brevard and lobbied hard to get more funding so we could build a much larger hall,” Janicki noted.
Today, the King Center seats 2,016 people. The venue offers a small performance stage, a rotunda room and the main theater.
For the past 25 years, the King Center has been the home stage for the Brevard Symphony Orchestra. Its mission has been to provide Space Coast residents with top quality culture and entertainment that otherwise might not be available in our community. Over the years, hundreds of top acts have graced the King Center stage – all of them catering to a predominantly local audience with diverse and ever-changing tastes.
It has been Janicki’s job, and a challenging task at that, to keep up with the public’s ever changing interests. Early on, Janicki relied on his own research to determine what acts to schedule. Today, he still listens to the voice of the community to determine which acts to book.
“I don’t let demographics overwhelm me. I rely on local residents to tell me what they want. We don’t do impact studies specific for this organization because I have been here so long I pretty much know what our patrons look for,” Janicki said.
Fine arts and classical music have always been sprinkled into the mix in order to balance out the King Center’s schedule. For younger audiences, the King Center is directly involved with the local school system, offering summer theater camps and bringing in special performances geared for children and teens.
According to Janicki, most patrons are from Brevard and Indian River. However, the April 28th John Legend concert was an exception; it was a Central Florida exclusive show that sold out in just one night several weeks in advance with about 20 percent of its seats going to out-of-county ticketholders.
Runaway Country Festival
Gary McCann, another local entertainment promoter, gears his annual Runaway Country Music Fest to fans who come from near and far. Keith Urban, Charlie Daniels and Toby Keith were among the highlights performing on the Wickham Park stage at Runaway Country 2014.
According to a published report by the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida’s Space Coast, the first Runaway Country, held in 2011, drew 21,000 people to Brevard and had an economic impact of $4.6 million dollars. These figures made Runaway Country one of the single largest events in Brevard County. According to the EDC report, the event also assured an estimated total of 5,000 hotel nights. Direct local expenditures were reported as $579,000.
That same year, Runaway Country reported guests representing 10 countries, 28 states and 392 out of 1,469 (or 26 percent) of Florida zip codes.
“We decided to make Runaway Country a three-day event. Most tourist destinations hold multiple-day events. It was a great decision … We are finding people come early and stay longer and while they are here they go on cruises, take kayak trips, play golf and enjoy our beaches” McCann said.
McCann also boosts attendance by offering early bird tickets for the entire weekend for only $99, and those tickets go on sale for the following year immediately after the current year event comes to a close.
Huge events like Runaway Country may boost the local economy but a steady stream of smaller events support local artists and sometimes bring new visitors to the community.
On a Local Level
The Space Coast has also seen a significant increase in the number of small but popular riverfront, beachside and historic district arts and cultural events featuring live music, boutique shopping, fine and performing arts. This new trend adds to the optimistic view that the Brevard County arts scene is growing.
Historic Eau Gallie near Highland Avenue is a prime example of a newly revived and thriving arts district with several small art galleries, a variety of painting and craft classes and open air art shows. Downtown Melbourne has also boosted its economy with frequent candlelight shopping events, live bands and street parties.
More traditional art shows, such as the Indialantic Art Festival, now in its 25th year, continue to draw both tourists and local attendees, while newer specialty arts events, such as the Art of Sand, have gained national and international attention. Brevard County also has a number of historic and special interest museums including the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum.
“When I first got here in Brevard County some 26 years ago, all I heard was how the community was such a cultural wasteland – there was virtually nothing. Today it is quite the opposite,” said Janicki. “We have fine community theaters such as the Community Playhouse in Titusville and the Ruth Henagar Center in Melbourne. We have quality arts organizations and thriving downtown arts districts. It makes me proud to be here and to be part of such a vibrant cultural community.”