Kentucky Association of Government Communicators selects projects highlighting The Virginia renovation as best in special event, video categories
The City of Somerset’s communications team recently received two awards of excellence in the Kentucky Association of Government Communicators (KAGC) annual awards competition for its efforts to promote the renovation and grand opening of The Virginia, downtown Somerset’s historic live performance venue.
KAGC was founded in 1985 as a professional development organization for communications professionals within state government. It has since grown to welcome city, county, school systems and other public affairs personnel from across the Commonwealth. Its annual awards competition aims to honor the exceptional work of government communicators and highlight their contributions to effective public engagement, transparency and innovative communication strategies.
City of Somerset Communications Director Julie Nelson Harris received an award of excellence in the special event category for promotion of The Virginia’s community open house in June 2022. This widely anticipated event — in which the doors of this 100-year-old building officially opened after sitting vacant and decaying for 27 years — attracted 500 people from the community to celebrate the theater’s rebirth as an event venue. The City of Somerset’s $2 million renovation and restoration project garnered statewide media attention, which also led it to receive a Kentucky History Award for Preservation from the Kentucky Historical Society.
“The Virginia is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve ever been a part of,” Harris said. “It was surreal to watch this space be transformed from the theater I once watched movies in as a little girl to a venue where I can watch live music and theater as an adult. I am grateful to the KAGC for honoring our efforts to promote this project, one that thee City of Somerset team took great pride in and worked tirelessly to make a reality.”
Harris and Tyler Whitaker, filmmaker, video marketer and president/CEO of Whitaker Arts LLC, received an award of excellence for a three-part documentary series that tells The Virginia’s history and the story of its rebirth. The series includes interviews with community members who worked there in its early days, who watched movies there, and who have been integral in its revitalization. It helped draw attention to the importance of historical preservation, community gathering spaces, and strong and vibrant downtowns.
“We wanted to visually tell the story of this building — of its popularity during its heyday as a movie theater, of the ice storm that caused it close and the years of decay that followed, and the valiant efforts of many people in our community to bring it back to life,” Whitaker said. “These videos collectively have more than 20,000 views on social media. They have served as a great way for the community to connect to this project and for The Virginia to be showcased across the state and nation.”
Somerset Mayor Alan Keck congratulated the city’s communications team for its work to showcase what has been one of the most universally supported projects in Somerset’s history.
“The City of Somerset has the best team in the state,” Keck said. “Our communications team and its efforts certainly shine bright, and this is yet another example. Julie and Tyler complement each other’s talents so well and they meshed beautifully and masterfully to showcase our beloved Virginia.”