Westobou reduces staff to increase programs

Two Westobou Festival staffers lost their jobs Monday after the festival's board decided to spend less money on its office staff and more on arts programming leading up to the 2011 festival.

Kathi Dimmock, the executive director of the arts festival, and Virginia Atkins, the special events assistant, were let go. Molly McDowell, who was hired last year as the festival's new curator and art director, will stay on.

The fourth annual Westobou Festival, set for Sept. 28 to Oct. 8, will go on as planned, said Cameron Nixon, the chairman of Augusta Westobou Festival Inc., governed by the festival's executive board.

Last week, the trustees of the Academy of Richmond County presented the Porter Fleming Foundation Westobou Festival Awards, which provide funding for several arts groups' performances during the event.

A total of $210,820 was awarded to 14 arts groups and performers.

"As a board, we wanted to allocate certain monies to the programing, because that's what defines this festival," Nixon said. "We had to look at our staff expenses."

It was "somewhat of a strategic plan" to continue building Westobou into the large, regional arts festival it was first envisioned to be, Nixon said. Since 2008, the 10-day festival has attracted hundreds of thousands of patrons from a 100-to-150-mile radius.

"What we're trying to do is create events that are very compelling to people. We're coming up with events that are compelling enough to bring people to Augusta," Nixon said. "It costs a little extra."

More