Raye Jones Avery leads arts-education agency mission.
It’s been a long road for Raye Jones Avery. Having taken over Christina Cultural Arts Center at a time when it could have collapsed more than 20 years ago, she has seen it transformed. At its lowest in 1993, CCAC had fewer than 100 students and a meager annual operating budget of $200,000. Jones Avery, looking for a new opportunity after a successful career with the United Way, signed on in 1991. Since helping to lead a $2.8 million capital campaign and getting CCAC set up in its current downtown location on Market Street, Jones Avery, the executive director, and the board have grown it into a thriving arts-education agency that serves 2,000 school-aged children on site and reaches another 2,800 students at their schools. CCAC also has wooed a large number of adult students, and it attracts 8,000 to 9,000 people each year to its performances. Times are still tight, though—the staff hasn’t had a raise in seven years. “The good news?” Jones Avery says. ‘Not one of them has quit—not one—because they are committed to the mission, because they are leaders.” She sees CCAC as a vital part of the emerging creative district in Wilmington. Now, as she works on building the internal strength of an already-strong organization, she says, it’s time for CCAC to grow its brand. “The creative district is going to be a powerful agent for change,” she says. “It’s not going to just change downtown. It’s going to change the face of Wilmington.”