Profile: Cate MacNeill
by Jane Ledwell
I see myself as a connector,” says Cate MacNeill, who will soon enter her second year as Executive Director of The Guild in Charlottetown. “I connect people with events to stage to an audience.”
Cate’s goal is for The Guild to be a venue for success for artists. “Success is monetary,” she says, “but it’s also recognition. It’s also that you get to put on the show you want, and do it the way you want and have people enjoy it… We don’t want to censor anything that comes out of people’s enlightenment and vision and passion.”
Cate describes the background she brings to her work as “various,” but her career track begins and ends with love of culture. Cate originally trained in audio production and worked in television. She learned business management as an executive secretary to “mentor” and inspiration Fred Hyndman, but “got a bug” for “marketing and communication,” which led to training at Holland College and jobs in customer service, communications management, and finally back to music and the entertainment industry, twenty years later, as Event Coordinator for Music PEI. When her current job came up at The Guild, she recognized an opportunity to draw on all she had learned.
Though she now manages a theatre, she has usually avoided the spotlight. “I was very shy—or maybe had very little confidence—growing up,” Cate admits. “I was never committed enough to go to the next level. But I can see where others have the talent and passion, and I want to help and to see them succeed. Maybe that’s my way of expressing what I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t do myself.
“Throughout life, as you take risks, you try to reach the outer sphere of your comfort zone. I have done that a number of times, so now I have the confidence and the knowledge to bring a fuller picture into place,” she muses. “I know in my process of becoming who I am, people helped me. I know that feeling. Now, I want to give people a helping hand.”
Putting on a show at The Guild, whether in the gallery or the performance space, “is a first serious step” for many emerging artists, Cate says. “What we offer is a step up from the community level or the school level into a professional environment.”
A facility is a start, but emerging artists need more: “So much of what you need to do is to generate buzz—and forgive the term!” Cate says.
“When I took this role, I pictured a live-action space that could be parallel to the Buzz, that people would look to us to come out and see what’s happening, and that there would always be something happening—[there would] be people in the space and generating excitement and movement,” she says.
Of The Guild, Cate reflects, “The biggest challenge is dealing with the current perceptions of people based on past experience and how that affects their perception of future success.
“The Guild has built up credibility…. It has grown to a point where people recognize the contribution it makes to the community, but I don’t think people know just how much it can be. As far as it has come in the last five years, people don’t yet realize what its potential is, how far it can come, and what it can offer in the future.”
Cate wants to realize the potential: more regular year-round and round-the-clock programming, better use of the flexible black-box theatre space, better use of the gallery. “The gallery has so much potential to showcase the non-movement, static side of the arts,” she says. The Guild is working on a partnership with the Council of the Arts to ensure continuous activity in the gallery throughout 2008.
“There’s so much negativity, I find, in the world,” Cate says. “If I can bring something positive, that positivity will perpetuate itself. Culture is about enjoyment and about a deeper meaning to life and learning.” Cate says. “I really believe that being a positive influence can bring a positive result.”