On Monday, Rodney Berry was honored by RiverPark Center staff, friends and family members who celebrated his contributions in making RiverPark a place where the arts are available to everyone–regardless of income, social status, gender or race. The Children’s Art Fund in honor of Rodney Berry was created in April 2018 and has raised $175,000 in endowment funds since then.
RiverPark was opened to the public in 1992, and Berry was named the director of the performing arts center after spending the previous four years as the project manager. Berry organized fundraisers and spoke to the public about donating toward the project, so that the City of Owensboro could have a central location that focused on the arts.
Those close to Berry said it is very important to him that each and every person have an opportunity to experience the arts. This mindset of Berry’s is, in part, what led the RiverPark’s 25th Anniversary Commission to create the Children’s Art Fund in honor of Berry.
“It’s a fund that allows children to get involved in the different programs we have at the RiverPark Center,” said Faith Holley, director of development and marketing at RiverPark. “It’s based on need. The $175,000 is already amplifying our school programs.”
The RiverPark hosts a handful of programs focused on educating and interacting with school-age children who are interested in learning about the theater and other subjects. Those programs include Arts in the A.M., Students on Stage, Arts Teach Kids and various summer camps. The Children’s Art Fund goes toward all of these programs, Holley said.
“This morning was about honoring the folks who gave to the fund, and honoring Rodney as well,” Holley said. “Joe Berry, Rodney’s son, said it best this morning. He told the crowd that his dad said, ‘No child is being left without experiencing the arts.’”
According to Joe, his dad is proud of the RiverPark Center’s programming for the youth of the community, especially that children attend at little to no cost.
“The RiverPark belongs to the community,” Joe said.
Even though the City of Owensboro had a much higher unemployment rate in the late 80s and early 90s, Joe said it’s amazing that his dad was able to raise millions of dollars toward one of downtown Owensboro’s first major developments.
Joe said his father was an athlete growing up who wasn’t immersed in the creative arts world, but Rodney’s appreciation for the arts now shines.
“As he grew up, he understood the importance the arts plays,” Joe said. “Owensboro’s focus on arts really differentiates it from most cities of our size.”
A plaque honoring Berry for his years of dedication and service is hanging on a wall in the main lobby of the RiverPark Center.