CARROLLWOOD – The mere thought of cultural events intimidates some. They think of cellists and rare paintings, statues and chamber music, elderly people in tuxedos and evening gowns.
That’s not how it is at the Carrollwood Cultural Center . Executive Director Paul Berg has been trying to get the word out that there is plenty to do there – and tuxes aren’t needed.
Berg started with the CCC in 2008. He was pretty much all by himself as the paint dried around him. There wasn’t even a computer, let along other employees.
Today, he has the same mission – getting the word out that the center is open to more than just residents of Carrollwood and that the word “culture” encompasses a lot more than people think.
Trained in various arts and a performer himself, Berg is also an avid sports fan who used to see every Chicago Bulls game he could while growing up in Illinois.
“A lot of people think if you work in the arts community that’s kind of how you are defined,” Berg said. “You don’t have to be into just the arts to enjoy this place.”
Getting the word out is important to Berg. The center relies on donations and admissions and no one at the center is getting wealthy. It’s a labor of love and a chance to feel part of a community.
When Berg graduated from college he had several opportunities. After a stint teaching at Illinois State University, he headed to Tampa for the chance to start a center from scratch.
Today, the small room where plays and concerts are held provides an intimacy that is starting to attract larger name acts. Word never really got out, but the CCC was close to getting Billy Joel. Berg said the center was at the top of Joel’s list before the tour was filled. He’s got a big-name country band coming as well as several established comedians lined up. It also came close to landing country star Travis Tritt.
How does he get them? He doesn’t have the big money to pay big time actors, but he has something that costs the CCC absolutely nothing – customer service skills that he says are unrivaled.
Recently the New Christy Minstrels folk music group played the CCC and asked for the chance to come back. When the group appeared the first time, Berg set up a cookout behind the center. The group loved it and said they would come back – as long as another cookout was in the deal.
“We work hard at making everyone happy,” Berg said. “We can only get better. We can’t compete for a Bruce Springsteen, but we can offer a great setting, great fans, and great customer service. That’s the goal.”
The crowds have been great at the CCC but Berg isn’t satisfied just yet.
“We are in the constant state of trying to figure out what we can do better,” Berg said. “We can never afford to not put on our best show. We are building a base now and it is going to continue to grow.”
Still, the community is the top priority. Kids acting groups put on regular shows and he’s even starting to put on kids birthday parties featuring anything the client wants, including a recent circus-themed party.
“We belong to the community,” Byrd said. “This is for the people who drive past it everyday and live in Tampa Bay or anywhere else. It’s a great place to be.’’
The Carrollwood Cultural Center is located at 4537 Lowell Road, Tampa. It can be reached at (813) 269-1310.