Cultural Development Corporation
By her own account, almost everything Anne Corbett learned about management she learned from Taco Bell. An army brat who studied theatre in college and graduated with a degree in math, Corbett took at job as business manager at a Taco Bell during the recession in the 90s. "I learned soup to nuts how to make a business run and those are principles and skills that I apply every single day," she says. "And I did it under some of the worst and best conditions. Some of the major corporations have the benefit of a cushion that a small business person doesn't have."
At Taco Bell, she was in charge of opening four different restaurants during a major expansion. While it was a thrill to watch a business grow, during the process she had a huge realization that would have a profound impact on her future. "At some point," she says, "I saw that we can be more thoughtful in the way we place and integrate our product into the existing community... a little more strategic. There was really no conversation with the community about what ways we could nuance our business to better serve our customers."
From that point on, Anne began to make a name for herself as an entrepreneurial thinker who combined a deep love of urban planning with a pragmatic ability to problem-solve. She turned that into a talent for working with developers, businesses, and nonprofits, and strategizing ways for artists to live and work affordably in the city. Corbett became a member of the initial steering committee that created the Cultural Development Corporation (CuDC), whose mission is to increase and sustain the presence and appreciation of arts and culture in downtown Washington. She became its paid project director and then in 2000 became executive director at age 27.
Over its ten-year history, CuDC, under Corbett's leadership, has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments, including the creation of Art-O-Matic, a month-long multimedia arts event that transforms an unfinished indoor space into a free public arts event. CuDC had a consulting role in the development of the several new performing arts spaces, including the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Gala Hispanic Theatre's new home at the renovated Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights, and Woolly Mammoth's Theatre's location at 7th and D Streets, NW.
In 2003 CuDC created Flashpoint, a 6,000-square-foot arts incubator and multi-use facility which includes a gallery, black box theatre, dance studio, and office space for eight small arts organizations, and affordable housing for artists. (To read a story about how CuDC helped one resident art organization, Step Afrika!, click on the CASE STUDY tab above.)
In 2006, Corbett personally spearheaded a campaign to prevent the failed Source Theatre on 14th Street, NW from being sold and redeveloped into a bar and restaurant. The building was sold to CuDC which then launched a $3.5 million campaign to renovate and reopen Source as a space for the arts. The first Source Festival, held this past summer in the newly-renovated space, was a critical and commercial success. For her many contributions, Corbett has received a number of honors, including the Mayor's Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts.
Corbett's education at Taco Bell days helped her realize the dream of ''making a positive impact on the landscape of a city in lasting, authentic ways." She has played a large role in helping artists and arts organizations find places to live and work and strategies to chart their futures in the District of Columbia.