Early on, Paul Berg fell in love with the arts.
A grade school teacher started a theater program at his school in northwest Illinois. Berg felt comfortable on stage, and knew then that he had found his calling.
"I felt like, 'Wow, this is pretty cool,'" he recalled. "My family was incredibly supportive, and they got me into community theater locally."
Years later, he would find work in film and TV as an extra. Now, he's the executive director of the Carrollwood Cultural Center, a local venue for all things artistic, from jazz concerts to yoga.
Berg's work at the center, 4537 Lowell Road, has resonated with the Carrollwood community.
"Paul Berg has increased the presence of the Carrollwood Cultural Center in our community and has attracted great staff," said Maria Patterson, executive director of the Carrollwood Area Business Association, which the center is a member of. "With Paul at the helm, the center has delivered on various forms of art, music, theater and classes that have helped enrich the lives of all ages of citizens in our community."
Berg, soft-spoken with an easy demeanor, lives in north Tampa with wife Adrienne Hutelmyer, who also works at the center.
He says after his days doing community theater, he got an undergraduate degree in acting and directing. Then, he began looking for steady employment. He landed work in film and TV as an extra and a stand-in.
Later, he worked in arts administration, helping put together the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. He eventually moved to Detroit and operated a children's theater there.
But the fledgling economy forced Berg south to Florida, where he found a job as the executive director of the Arts Council of Northwest Florida in Pensacola. Berg found out about the job at the center before it opened in January 2008 where St. Mark's Episcopal Church used to stand.
He said the center, well-known for its piano and yoga classes, helps build a sense of community for people in north Tampa.
"Regardless of your background, if you take a class in pottery, when you sit down at the wheel, nothing else matters," he said. "I like to use the phrase, 'the arts are a socio-economic leveler.'"
Berg said he's seen people who are reluctant to get involved in the arts come into the center and find an interest.
"You have the ability to find something here you're going to enjoy," he said. "We've got somebody who comes on a regular basis, and before they started coming, they were into NASCAR, etc. Years ago, they would've said, 'No way!'"
Berg wants the community to know that his door is always open, and likes hearing feedback about what is and isn't working at the Center.
"The only way we can grow," he said, "is from finding out from the community what they are looking for."
For more information on the center, visit its website.