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New director at Wealthy Theatre brings ideas, vision for future of community venue

Grand Rapids Community Media Center is pleased to announce new director at Wealthy Theatre, Sarah Vesely.
Sarah Vesely is the new director of Wealthy Theatre.

Sarah Vesely is the new director of Wealthy Theatre. /Kiran Sood Patel

This week, Sarah Vesely was named the new director at Wealthy Theatre. Wealthy Theatre is part of Grand Rapids Community Media Center, which also includes WYCE 88.1 fm, GRTV, The Rapidian and IT Services. She will begin her new role on February 1, 2018.

Of her new position, Vesely said, “I want to increase how important Wealthy Theatre is to the community; I want to uphold what everyone already loves about it and just expand it so more and more people are aware of it, more and more people are coming through."

Vesely was born and raised in Grand Rapids. She attended East Kentwood High School and graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2014 with a Bachelors in Film and video production.

She is currently completing her Master of Fine Arts at Hollins University in Virginia and will graduate in May 2018. Her focus is on screenplay writing and film studies.

Vesely began with a part-time job at GRTV in 2015 as an operations assistant.

Vesely will be transitioning from her role as GRTV's Production Manager, having been with the organization since February of 2015. Her responsibilities at CMC have gradually increased since her hire.

Initially, it didn't occur to her to apply for the theatre director position, “but then the more I thought about it, and talked to other people who were encouraging me, saying, ‘You should be applying for this,’ I thought, absolutely. That’s a really important role in the Community Media Center, an integral part of the community too.

“The more I thought about it, all of my work experience was leading to this. All of my passion for the Media Center was pointing me right in this direction.”

Vesely also has experience managing movie theatres. She was the first female projection manager at Celebration Woodland.

“I’m used to managing a staff, dealing with large events, providing great customer service,” she said. “More recently, I’ve been diving first in the community aspect, getting involved with social justice, networking. “I just absolutely love this city so much. When I put together, my love for the Grand Rapids, GRCMC, and theatre management, this is a win-win.”

Vesely had already been working with staff at Wealthy Theatre and with Jackie Peterman, newly-hired business manager at the theatre. And now, Vesely will be the CMC's first female theatre director.

“I absolutely love the team dynamic that they have already, and I’m really looking forward to steering the ship and upholding some of Dirk Koning’s ideals for what they wanted to do with the theatre. I want to push it forward, bringing it to its full potential,” she said.

Vesely is an adjunct professor in the Film Department at GVSU. In May 2016, Vesely and Peterman co-founded Cinema Lab. Cinema Lab is an all-encompassing film workshop designed to engage our community in active viewing, making, and understanding of the world of cinema, according to the group’s Facebook page. Since its launch, Cinema Lab has brought together community members who are passionate about film to gather and discuss movies.

The first film viewed was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Other screenings have included Casablanca, a 16mm film screening of Nosferatu, and even a partnership with the Sundance Film Festival for Night of Native Cinema, a showcase of short Indigenous films.

In the community, Vesely is president of Grand Valley's Film and Video Alumni chapter, a panelist for UICA's Open Projector Night and has served as a moderator for various panels. She is a board member for the West Michigan Film and Video Alliance and an official judge of the Kent District Library Teen Film Festival. She is also a member of the Michigan Alliance for Community Media.

Collaboration will be a key part of Vesely's approach to her work.

"I don't think anyone could quite survive in this world without collaboration, especially important for nonprofits," she said. "Collaboration not only is going to help a group or business or organization be successful, but it's also about the networking too, and getting outside of your comfort zone, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, new ways of thinking, it just makes for people to be more open-minded."

Linda Gellasch, executive director of Grand Rapids Community Media Center, said Vesely brings energy and excitement for the entire Media Center to her role.

"I think we're going to new places with Sarah at the lead. Her energy and her ideas and her severe passion will make Wealthy Theatre an even bigger success as part of the Community Media Center, and therefore as part of Grand Rapids. We're going to be seeing lots of new things going on at Wealthy Theatre; we're going to expand the level of programming, and the diversity of programming that we've had at the theatre. Sarah has a demonstrated history of going above and beyond, creating innovative programming for the community here at CMC.

"It has a great foundation, and we're going to build on that with incredible leadership from Sarah."

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