Movin' on out
The Carver Community Cultural Center and Director Bill Lewis are parting ways at the end of July. San Antonio native Marva Crisp, of the City of San Antonio's Community Initiatives department, which overseas the Carver, says she is "easing into" Lewis' shoes. Crisp's title will be Interim Carver Cultural Center Supervisor, said Irma Gonzalez of Community Initiatives.
"The board decided not to renew my contract and I was in agreement and wasn't going to fight it," said Lewis, who has been at the Carver since 2002 `see "The creative energizer, January 30-February 5, 2003`. Lewis, who oversaw the renovation of the historic Carver theater, brought a strong focus on performance to the East Side culture hub, and his tenure was marked by high-caliber (and sometimes high-priced) touring shows such as Etta James, the Koresh Dance Company, and Rennie Harris Pure Movement. "We've had a year of trying to readjust programmatically and physically to this new, much larger, space," said Lewis, adding that the challenge for the Carver, and San Antonio's performing-arts community as a whole, is to create more synergy among the organizations. "The active buzzword that is really starting to catch on is 'collaboration,' so that if you have a presenting organization that traditionally brings people in from out of town, at the same time they need to be supporting local people, too."
A City employee who preferred to remain anonymous speculated that the Carver's board of directors never communicated to Lewis that the Carver was first and foremost a community center, which led to a conflict in goals. The Carver's roots stretch back to 1930, when it opened as the Colored Library Auditorium, later renamed for George Washington Carver. In the segregated San Antonio of the early-to-mid-20th century, the Carver became an African-American institution, hosting stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie "Bird" Parker, and Paul Robeson, as well as political and social gatherings. The employee added that Lewis reported directly to the board while his staff was comprised of City employees, creating tension over the lines of authority at the City owned-and-operated facility.
Crisp referred the Current to Carver board chair Johnnie Thomas for more information, such as short and long-term plans for the organization, but Thomas could not be reached before press time.