During her two decades at Center of Creative Arts (COCA), founding executive director Stephanie Riven nurtured it from a small educational program with four employees and 40 students to the fifth-largest multidisciplinary arts center in the country. Today, COCA has a budget of $5 million, more than 300 faculty members and serves 50,000-plus people a year with performances, exhibitions, camps, and nationally recognized arts education programs. Now, Riven is joining an arts consulting firm in New York City. To honor her legacy and welcome new executive director Kelly Pollock, COCA is throwing itself—and the community—a little party. The two-day event, COCA 360: The Shape of Things to Come, takes place Oct.1 and 2.

“We’re embracing the future with a spectacular celebration of the arts,” Pollock says. “The Friday night fundraising gala, ‘Come Party,’ is a benefit for COCA programs and services, including the Urban Arts & Scholarship Program.” The night will start with cocktails on the red carpet, followed by the unveiling of a newly commissioned permanent installation, Currents, by artist Jill Downen, the culmination of a juried competition that attracted entries from around the globe. “The piece changes color and emits sound—it’s really stunning,” Pollock says. “It will be dedicated to Stephanie in honor of her many achievements.”

Founders’ Theatre will then offer partygoers a multimedia tribute to Riven, “featuring special guest celebrities and surprises only COCA could cook up,” Pollock promises. After a seated dinner, guests will move outdoors for an aerial dance on the COCA building walls by performance art ensemble Quixotic Fusion. Later, guests can choose between two venues for music and dancing. “We’re offering a special late-night ticket for that portion of the evening, which starts at 10 p.m.,” Pollock says.

Saturday’s family-friendly event on the COCA grounds, ‘Come Play,’ is free and open to the public. It will feature performances by local musicians, dancers and circus artists, as well as information booths from local private schools. “Guests will have the opportunity to sing, dance, and participate in projects, including sidewalk chalk murals and the chance to help create a commemorative work,” Pollock says.

In addition, the Stephanie Riven Legacy Fund has been created to raise contributions toward paying the balance on COCA’s 2005 renovation and expansion. “It’s an important goal toward sustainability for COCA and for Stephanie, who will continue to work as a consultant for us,” says Pollock, who joined COCA in 1997 and has served as development director and general manager. She was named Riven’s successor after an extensive national search.

Peabody Energy is weekend presenting sponsor for the events. The company’s sponsorship donation makes it the first corporate donor to contribute more than $1 million to COCA. “Peabody is grateful that COCA has enriched the lives of so many families through the arts,” says Peabody chairman and CEO Greg Boyce. “An artistically rich community is a dynamic and innovative one.” Adds COCA board president Cheryl Holman, “We’re thrilled to honor Stephanie’s legacy and celebrate Kelly’s appointment in true COCA style.”

Pollock says COCA is positioned for a proseperous future. “Thanks to Stephanie, we have a solid foundation and a great track record to build on. Now we need to develop the resources to maintain high-quality programs that are creative, diverse, and reach as many people as possible. We want everyone to experience the joy the arts provide.”

On the Cover: COCA 360: The Shape of Things to Come takes place Oct. 1, and 2 at COCA. Tickets for the Friday dinner and fundraiser start at $350; the Saturday event is free and open to the public.  For more information, call 725-1834, ext. 109, or visit www.cocastl.org.

Cover design by Erica Fisher • Cover photo by Jason Mueller