FENWICK, Del. — As they prepare to kick of their fourth season organizers for the Freeman Stage at Bayside announced that for the first time they were able to secure performances by two national acts for the summer season.
Michelle Freeman, president and chair of the The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, said she was pleased to announce that Leanne Rimes and the B-52s will join the already impressive lineup of this summers entertainment season.
“We are upping the ante. We’re bringing the LeAnne Rimes’ of the world,” she said. “And we’re asking the community to do their part and show they support the arts.”
As a public charity the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation may only supply two-thirds of the revenue for any given project and must rely on community and corporate donations for the final third of the Freeman Stage at Bayside’s funding.
To that end, she and the other members of the foundation have been out educating the public about the value of the arts, such as are presented at the Freeman Stage, as well as about the need to help support them.
Experts in education Dr. Ileana Smith, campus director and vice president of Delaware Technical and Community College, Owens Campus and Dr. Susan Bunting, superintendent of the Indian River School district spoke about how students at all levels are inspired as much by the access to art as the practice of it.
“It excites young minds where programs fail,” Bunting said of arts education programs. “We’re very grateful for our partners at the Freeman Foundation.”
From Smith’s perspective, the creative energy needed to develop entrepreneurs is heightened when the opportunity to see professional ballet and operatic performances is part of a student’s regular regimen.
Additionally, she said, a thriving arts community is a main indicator of an area’s quality of life.
“The arts are an essential part of the quality of life,” she said. “Having exposure to the arts is a big part of that. People are looking for a place where they can raise their children and where their family have access to the arts.”
More than 50,000 people attended shows at the Freeman Stage at Bayside last season and according to Paul Weagraff, director of the Delaware Division of the Arts, the money spent on the arts demonstrates that money is invested in the arts, not dnated to it.
“It’s no news that the arts are an economic driver,” he said. “We know that for every public dollar invested in the arts there is at least a $7 return in local and public revenue.”
According to Freeman, the project has continued to grow beyond her’s or anyone’s initial expectations.
“When we started we thought it was all about the building,” she said. “But now we know it’s about the experience.”
Both she and Lucinda Williams, executive director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, talked about how the Freeman Stage provided an outlet for families to spend time doing less technologically oriented things separately and experiencing performances together.
“It’s time for [families] to be together,” Williams said. “Just to be a part of this has always been an incredible thrill for us.”
Freeman said that in addition to actively seeking corporate and individual sponsors, the foundation is also recruiting both volunteers to help at events.
For the full concert lineup, visit www.freemanstage.org. Anyone interested in volunteering can get in touch with the foundation through its website as well.