May 20--When The Seasons Performance Hall opened in 2005 in downtown Yakima, the original vision foresaw a hall for classical and jazz music. The venue, in the ornate and historic former Christian Science Church building, offered a perfect setting and acoustics for music lovers with refined tastes.
Here we are almost nine years later, and look at the calendar of events for the final two weeks in May: Josiah Johnson, co-frontman for the indie folk-rock band The Head and The Heart, which has toured with the famed Dave Matthews Band; country singer and Mercury Nashville recording artist James Otto; a classical-music themed Dinner and Dance Night; and a big band concert. Salsa dancing also takes place on four of those nights in the building's east wing, which is also the home of the Yakima Light Project Gallery.
In other words, The Seasons has ventured far from its original niche. It has done so as a conscious decision that was borne from fiscal necessity.
The Seasons wasn't alone among arts groups in struggling during the recent national economic recession; it struggled further when its main benefactor, the Strosahl family's United Builders, had to pull back its annual $100,000 subsidy due to the recession's impact on the family homebuilding business. The housing sector, of course, arguably suffered the most during the great economic downtown.
The Seasons reinvented itself under the direction of a member of the family's younger generation, Ellie Strosahl, now 30. She started work out of college doing marketing for the hall, then was thrust into the manager's role. She oversaw the organization's transition into a nonprofit and then booked a wider variety of performers -- the latter step at first did not come with unanimous family approval. A Yakima County grant in 2009 helped renovate the facility and bring it up to code in fire safety, electrical systems, restrooms and heating and cooling systems, among others.
What Yakima has now is a glittering jewel of a performance venue, with a capacity of about 450. The hall brings an assortment of acts that attract locals -- and out-of-town visitors who come here and find that some interesting performances complement their wine tours or sports attractions.
With the finances stabilized, The Seasons is now looking for a new manager. Ellie Strosahl has decided to step away and pursue a new life in California. The Seasons remains a relatively new venue compared to more venerable local arts institutions, but both Strosahl and the hall have made their mark in showing how flexibility and creativity can assure the survival of an arts organization in difficult times. In less than a decade, The Seasons is pointing a way to the future for the local arts community.
-- Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.
(c)2014 Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.)
Visit Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) at www.yakima-herald.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services