There’s no questioning how impactful the support of Jason and Shelby Bingham has been to the arts community in Roanoke, Virginia. From their initial stopping in town for a quick dinner and catching a show at the Mill Mountain Theatre, to now being two of the biggest advocates of the Roanoke Cultural Endowment, their support is monumental.
Q: Tell us about your journey to the City of Roanoke and how you got involved in the arts and culture community.
Jason: My wife, Shelby, and I have been in Roanoke since 2000. It actually all started with the arts. I had an employment opportunity arise which brought us here for a visit from Huntsville, Alabama. We were very happy there and we weren’t really looking to move. We came up and met with the team, then they sent us out to dinner in downtown Roanoke. We ended up at a show at the Mill Mountain Theatre. That is what closed the deal for us. We walked into this community and saw the quality of life this community had to offer. The arts are what brought us here.
Q: What draws you to be heavily involved in the City of Roanoke’s arts and culture community?
Jason: Well, my mother was a ballerina, so that was probably the very start of it for me. I’ve seen more Nutcracker performances than most people! But Shelby and I always found that we liked those smaller towns with a vibrant arts community. Huntsville, AL was a great example. It was a smaller town, so it was easier to get involved and there was always a great emphasis on the arts.
But the main genesis is our kids. This community is not only an amazing community, but it has given our kids great opportunities. Shelby got each of our kids interested in arts by starting them with piano. Then the community support took over. At the Southwest Virginia Ballet, Miss Post gave amazing instruction to our daughter, who has ended up as a professional ballerina performing with the Mallette Miami Theatre for Arts, Richmond Ballet, and the Santiago Ballet in Chile. My son switched from piano to the upright bass and Roanoke City Schools certainly nurtured that passion. He also became involved with the Jefferson Center where he got to see and play with amazing musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Mavis Staples, and Snarky Puppy. Now, he is a professional musician, and his current band, Hiss Golden Messenger was nominated for a Grammy Award this year.
Q: How have you been involved with the arts community in Roanoke since you’ve moved here?
Jason: We both got heavily involved because we loved the community from day one. We love the city itself and we wanted to give back. With my daughter’s involvement in the ballet, my wife Shelby became a Board Member and greatly supported the Southwest Virginia Ballet. I got involved with the Mill Mountain Theatre and became a part of the team that was involved with shutting it down and reopening it. I also served on the Roanoke City School Board for 8 years.
Q: How have you seen the City of Roanoke support the arts in your time here?
Jason: When I was on the School Board, we had a big arts focus with help from the VH1 Award. Through this award, all the elementary and middle schools got new instruments.
Then you think about Jefferson Center, Taubman, and Center in the Square and you see clearly our community’s commitment to the arts.
Q: Considering your involvement in so many other organizations, why is it important that you also give to the Roanoke Cultural Endowment?
Jason: The key is “culture.” Together, we’re enabling an arts culture for the long term. In Santiago, Chile, we got to see a community that actively supports the arts. Santiago is a neat place and we feel the same about Roanoke and the potential to build that long-term funding in a way culture can thrive. We want to see core support for the arts that assure our quality of life, even in financially challenging times.
Q: What kind of impact do you hope to see from the funding that the Roanoke Cultural Endowment will distribute to local non-profit organizations?
Jason: First, a sustainable and vibrant arts culture. That is the end goal. With the right funding, you can do some really cool things. When my daughter Sara was in the Richmond Ballet, they had a fund that enabled a live orchestra to perform with the ballet. It’s that kind of experience we can create right here. We can create a world-class arts community and art instruction.
Q: What advice do you have for people who want to donate or get involved with these organizations?
Jason: If you love Roanoke like we do and if you appreciate the quality of life that we all enjoy, this is one of the greatest investments you can make to strengthen our community and our quality of life.