Executive director of Belcourt impacts community beyond historic theatre

Stephanie Silverman (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Stephanie Silverman is the boss at the Belcourt Theatre, but her impact on the community extends beyond the walls of the historic building.

Inside Hillsboro Village’s most beloved theatre, Silverman is the face of the Belcourt.

“It’s funny when you have a public job and you have the front face of an entity of a place that a lot of people in town know about. People assume you are extroverted, but I am a total fake extrovert and really what I love most is home and cooking,” Silverman said.

Silverman is a mother to four and a wife to a professional violinist, an instrument that’s been a common thread in her life.

“I had a mother who was a symphony musician, so I grew up very much in the arts,” she explained. “She was the local Suzuki violin teacher, so I was always surrounded by music and people who worked in the arts and was always drawn to it as a kid.”

Silverman went to an arts college for violin, but ended up graduating with an acting degree, her favorite part of a film.

(Photo: WKRN)

“I find that you can really see something in the world when performances are transformational and I, I just love it. I love walking out and feeling like, ‘Wow, that was something really special,’” she explained.

Silverman told News 2 she is a movie buff, but not a movie geek.

A Midwestern girl originally, born in Iowa and growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, she traveled the globe following her career goals, working with a number of art organizations from a contemporary dance organization in Lincoln, Nebraska, to a museum in Wisconsin.

Silverman moved to Nashville in 2006 to be with her husband and an opportunity at the Belcourt just happened to be open.

“This was a particularly perfect institution, although I didn’t work in the film world I certainly worked in organizations that presented challenging content and that’s one of the things we do here,” said Silverman.

The most challenging was the decision to shut down the more than 90-year-old building for six months for a complete overhaul.

“It was scary, but we really did our due diligence,” she said.

Silverman was at the helm talking to city leaders, donors, the historical society and a list of others.

(Photo: WKRN)

“We just made sure we were having a lot of conversations with people listening to them and responding to them and making changes so that the plan we arrived at when we were going to finally do this, do the most dramatic thing we’ve ever done, shutting down and being closed for six months was really with every t crossed and every I dotted.”

It had been more than 50 years since the theatre was renovated. They spent $5 million on upgrades, including an expanded lobby and handicap-accessible bathrooms and the results paid off.

“She absolutely transformed the Belcourt and recognized that the heart of it needed to stay, but we needed a new face and she absolutely made that happen,” said Mayor Megan Barry.

“The minute we re-opened in July of last year they kind of flooded us and it’s been really an extraordinary ride ever since,” Silverman said.

She told News 2 the Belcourt is much more than a theatre.

“When you come here you feel a sense of warmth, you’ll feel a sense of curiosity and you may not know what all those posters are that are on the outside of the building, but they are worth taking a chance on and a lot of times you will be delighted with something that you didn’t even know was out in the works and was there to tell you a story.”

In a city that’s built on storytelling, the films at the Belcourt spark conversations that extend beyond the walls of the building and into the streets of our city.

“The songwriting community here is so extraordinary and I just feel like that sort of seeps throughout the community and people’s love of a good story and the ability to sort of sit back and let a story take them somewhere that they may not have gone before is pretty unique and the curiosity level is pretty high so I really do believe that is one of the reasons we are seeing such growth and such commitment to us by our community,” said Silverman.

While the renovation was a major accomplishment, Silverman is always looking at the future for the theatre.

“We are really sort of thinking about, ‘What can we do to get more movies in the community? What can we do to get more people seeing film and maybe ways to even support film makers?’ So we are looking at a lot of different ways to grow, but like with the renovation, we want to do it in a way that’s really thoughtful, that’s really careful and protects the institution.”

Silverman recently won the Bank of America CEO of the Year award for strengthening the theatre’s profile as one of Nashville’s leading arts organizations.

She was also the 2016 Nashvillian of the Year in the Nashville Scene. She down plays the awards, saying it’s the extraordinary group of people she works with that deserve the recognition.