Chris Carter has been drawn to the arts for as long as he can remember. The executive director of the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center (LVPAC) started playing music as a teenager when his church’s youth group was looking for a guitarist. “I volunteered and had no idea what I was doing,” says Carter, who also plays in a longtime local band called LK Project. “Every day I came home from school and instead of doing my homework, I practiced the guitar for four or five hours in my room.”
Alumnus of Saint Mary’s College Moraga, Carter joined Bankhead Theater as director of development and communications before becoming executive director in 2020. LVPAC, home to the 500-seat Bankhead Theater and Bothwell Arts Center, hosts shows of 10 resident companies and national and international guests, and is an independent venue not linked to any university or government body.
Carter’s professional fundraising history and passion for performance are assets to leading a team that depends on donations to stay operational. “I approach it first as an art lover,” he says of his role. “Being able to fundraise helps us subscribe to things that may not make money but are important.”
Carter sources interpreters and coordinates with agents, while acting as a liaison between the center and its staff, patrons, and community institutions. He also secured around $10 million in funding during his time with LVPAC. “Years ago I had a mentor who told me that you raise money for happy or sad things,” he adds, “and the arts[are]a happy thing to raise money for.
This year, Carter is particularly looking forward to appearances by Lea Salonga and Randy Newman (at the center’s annual fundraising gala) and, this month, Livermore Valley Opera’s Otello, March 5-13. He finds joy in discovering new interests. “Some of my favorite moments are when I’m surprised,” he says. “I didn’t know I liked mariachi music! But I love live. I’m really excited now when we have these shows coming up.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced LVPAC to close for 14 months, but local support for the arts has only grown. “When we reopened [in July 2021], ticket sales were the strongest I’ve ever seen,” says Carter. “Every venue I spoke to was going through the same thing. In some areas the arts industry is very competitive, but here it’s very collaborative. [The pandemic has] brought us together as curators and art makers, producers and broadcasters, as we all suffered through the shutdown together.
Ultimately, Carter hopes LVPAC audiences will simply revel in the shows and come back for more. “The arts are for everyone. They improve the quality of life in the community,” he says. “I want people to feel welcome and have a space of their own, no matter who they are or where they come from. » livermorearts.org.