Now, Mayer’s been a resident of the eccentricity-filled Carrboro for just about two weeks, moving across the country from Seattle after only two days in the area.
“I think there’s a story to tell here, and we need to continue to learn how to tell that story,” Mayer said.
Learning about the community is a priority for Mayer, who’s already made a few stops at some Chapel Hill landmarks.
“I’ve spent a couple of days walking around UNC. I went to the Varsity with my kid to see a movie,” he said. “I’m learning my way around.”
As the leader of a community-based nonprofit, he feels getting a lay of the land is crucial for the success of the ArtsCenter, which serves in many ways as a home for people in the community. With a variety of purposes from visual and performance art classes to a concert venue to after-school programs, Mayer said the ArtsCenter is unique.
“There are very few models where there are such a range of different users and different programs that are used by so many different people,” he said.
Because of this, Mayer wants to try to meet everyone’s needs.
“I’m on a listening tour — I want to learn about what this community values and then prioritize what this community values,” he said. “That’s not a simple question to answer, that’s one that evolves over time.”
ArtsCenter Marketing Director Adam Graetz said the mission is an important one.
“It’s some fresh energy,” he said. “I’m really curious about the direction he’s going to take.”
While the ArtsCenter has been a 501(c)(3) nonprofit since 1974, profit margins have been slipping since 2008, said ArtsCenter Board Chairman Don Rose.
“It’s no secret the ArtsCenter has had some years where we ended the year in red, and a lot of that is due to the recession,” Rose said. “We consider ourselves lucky and count it as a testament to what we’re adding to the community that we made it through relatively unscathed.”
June 30 marked the end of the 2014 fiscal year, which Mayer said ended in black. In order to continue that trend, Mayer is trying to rebrand the ArtsCenter’s identity while revitalizing the nonprofit’s business plan and encouraging a look toward the future.
But facing challenges such as an aging building that was meant to last 20 years and a doubled visitorship from 60,000 to 120,000 over those years, Mayer hopes the change will bring a new understanding.
“We’re seen as a grassroots organization, but after 40 years, when are we an institution?” he said.
For now, though, Mayer is working on creating that relationship with the community that’s so important for the ArtsCenter.
“What I hope to get out of the community is a real sense of partnership and ownership where they partner with the ArtsCenter as government and as business,” he said.
“There’s a two-way conversation here and we want to facilitate that.”