As the executive director of Palos Verdes Performing Arts, Julie Moe Reynolds is continuing a philanthropic legacy that began decades ago when her mother Joan Hurst Moe helped raise millions to open the Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estates in 1983.
Moe Reynolds' father Dick Moe was also behind the fundraising drive and later became a board member and board president. The Harlyne J. Norris Pavilion, which opened in 1999, came to fruition through the aid of his fundraising efforts, as did the Palos Verdes Performing Arts Conservatory.
“It's a constant 7-day a week job, but it's also a labor of love because it's a legacy for the community,” said Moe Reynolds. “If there's anything my parents instilled in me as a young person growing up is that your community is what defines you and how you give back to others is really happiness. I find a lot of happiness doing my job and having art here for the Peninsula.”
Moe Reynolds said about $1 million a year needs to be raised to keep programs at PVPA and its Norris Theatre, Pavilion and Conservatory running.
“It's a challenging time to make people aware that performing arts needs funding and how important performing arts is in our lives,” Moe Reynolds said.
A theater of our own
It was in the 1970s when Joan Hurst Moe first conceived the idea of building a theater on the hill.
She watched Julie and her classmates in a talent show in the multi-purpose room at Rancho Vista Elementary School in Rolling Hills Estates. Her mother, who had been an actor and model, had grown up in Ohio and back east where schools had “real theaters and real stages.”
“She just thought it was such a shame that the kids of our community didn't have the opportunity to perform on a real stage,” Moe Reynolds said. “At the same time, she thought, 'Why do we have to drive all the way downtown to get professional theater. It such a hassle with the freeway. It would be really nice if we could have it here.'”
Friend Agnes Moss and Hurst Moe joined forces, along with members of the community, to create a group called the Community Association of the Peninsula. Moss wanted to bring a YMCA-like public gym to the hill, but Hurst Moe wanted a theater. Eventually it came to a vote of the residents when a ballot was sent out and the theater won.
“From then on it was fundraising. I can't tell you how many events were at our house or other people's homes,” said Moe Reynolds, who added the philanthropy all became just part of her childhood.
“It really taught me a lot about giving back," said Moe Reynolds. "So many people came together to make this vision happen ... their power and influence, they made things happen. The Norris Theatre is sitting there as a testimony to that vision and that passion.”
With the main seed money of $1 million coming from the Kenneth T. and Eileen L Foundation, $5.3 million was raised and the Norris Theatre opened in 1983.
Continuing the legacy
Moe Reynolds continued to help her parents with fundraisers for the PVPA, even while she attended California Lutheran University. She majored in business and eventually founded her own engineering company.
She grew more active with PVPA and held various positions with the Board of Trustees, including CFO and president. Her mother died in June 2013, and her father five years later.
“When my parents were getting older, I ramped back up and started getting really active again and took board position, chief financial officer for three years, executive board member for many years, president for two or three years,” Moe Reynolds said. “After my mother died, there was a pretty big hole and my father really just couldn't continue in the same fashion.”
So Moe Reynolds sold her company and the board asked her to become executive director.
While she wears many hats at PVPA, fundraising is the biggest challenge, especially as many important and longtime supporters are aging. To counter that, PVPA is attempting to bridge the gap between generations and bring talent that can be enjoyed by all ages.
“I want the community to talk to its neighbors and go to a show and try us out,” Moe Reynolds said. “If there's any feedback, please call us... we want more people involved. Art plays a big role in enriching our community and that type of culture builds community.”
She added, “Theater is fun and enjoyable and it challenges and it enriches us. It brings color to our lives. It's something that's beautiful and has a lasting effect in Palos Verdes.”
For information on PVPA and the Norris, Conservatory and the Pavilion, visit palosverdesperformingarts.com.