BERRYVILLE — Sarah Ames performed in the band in high school, but she hardly considers herself a musician.
With three children and a career, she doesn’t have enough time in her day to dab some paint on a brush and stroke it across a canvas, or to shape a mound of clay spinning on a wheel.
But someone doesn’t have to sing or play an instrument to enjoy and appreciate music. Neither must a person make something decorative to appreciate another’s artistry and its meanings, or the feelings that inspired the artist to create it.
“Art and music always have been a part of who I am,” said Ames, who recently was promoted to executive director at the Barns of Rose Hill. “I’ve always appreciated and loved music and art in different forms.”
“It would be kind of hard to pinpoint what my creative outlet is,” she admitted. “But since I’m no great artist, it makes me appreciate art even more.”
Clarke County is lucky to have a venue showcasing the talents of artisans and musicians in the region, she said.
It’s often hard for a nonprofit arts organization to get established in a rural area, let alone be successful, Ames has observed. A small population can result in low attendance at programs and few long-term supporters.
But for the past nine years, the Barns has bucked that trend, attracting people not just from Clarke County, but also from many miles around, Ames pointed out.
Last year alone, a total of about 9,000 people attended roughly 250 programs held at the Barns.
Ames credits much of its success to several factors working together for its benefit: Providing arts, entertainment and cultural programs appealing to people with diverse interests, the good fortune of being in an area whose residents value the arts, and having a venue large enough to accommodate many activities yet small enough to enable people to socialize with friends and neighbors as well as the artists and musicians they come to see.
“People know they’re going to come here and hear great music,” for example, Ames said, “and be able to have conversations with the musicians after the show.”
“There’s a sense of community when you get here,” she said. “Folks know each other. It’s always inviting.”
Despite the community’s support, the Barns cannot sustain itself solely by ticket sales for concerts and other activities, she noted. Therefore, it has to seek other funding sources, such as grants.
The organization occupies two historic, renovated dairy barns off Chalmers Court in Berryville, next to the town-county government complex.
Frequently at the start of concerts, audiences are asked how many people among them are first-time visitors.
“It’s amazing how many hands you see going up,” Ames said. “We have a lot of folks who come to see a show (initially) and quickly become regulars.”
She also credits the Barns’ success to the hard work, energy and enthusiasm of its board members, who she said take a very active role in its operations, as well as its staff, which numbers only three. In addition to herself, those employees are Program Director Morgan Morrison and Operations Director Nathan Borger.
A Clarke County native, Ames joined the Barns as its office manager in November 2017. She was promoted to finance and development director the following year and recently was promoted to the top job.
Prior to joining the organization, she spent 14 years with the federal government, most recently the U.S. Department of the Interior in Herndon. She gained experience in finance, acquisition, auditing, internal controls, information technology and project management.
“Sarah brings both experience and local roots to the Barns,” board Chairman Michael Hobert said. “We believe she will continue providing leadership and imagination which will enrich, reflect and shape the unique identity of the Barns as an organization created to serve our neighbors and the region. We are confident her organizational skills will strengthen the delivery of the arts and education to the community.”
The executive director’s position had been vacant since early 2017. Ames said former board chairwoman Diana Kincannon “really picked up the slack” by handling many administrative duties herself.
Kincannon recently left the board, having served the maximum six years that someone can serve in one stretch under the bylaws. She remains active with the Barns, though.
Along with Ames’ promotion, the Barns recently saw changes in its board officers. Like Kincannon, several other previous members rotated off, having reached their term limits.
New officers include Hobert, a retired lawyer and former member of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. He also has served on the boards of many other community-based organizations.
Lucy Dorick is the new vice chairperson. An international fundraising specialist, Dorick has spent more than 25 years working for major museums, higher education institutions and humanitarian organizations including the Smithsonian Institution and George Mason University. She now focuses on serving private clients worldwide.
The new treasurer, Donald Rivers, is a lawyer and business consultant with experience in producing films and music events.
Kathy Hudson, a former librarian at Boyce Elementary School, will continue serving as the board’s secretary.
Other board members are David Conrad, Peter Cook, Diane Harrison, John Hill, Julie Miles, Barb Murry, Isreal Preston, Pat Robinson and Roma Sherman.