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Arts center site unveiled

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At the May 18 Village Council meeting, the Yellow Springs Center for the Arts Steering Committee announced a proposed location for a new performing arts facility.

“This is an important step toward a vision of Yellow Springs as a center for the arts,” said Jerome Borchers, chair of the committee, who made the announcement.

The proposed site is the intersection of Dayton and Railroad Streets, the former location of Linkhart Grain Elevator. The site, which is currently an empty lot used as a parking lot for Peach’s Grill and Yoga Springs Studio, is owned by area developer Matt Arnovitz.

Council members expressed enthusiasm for the announcement.

“This is an exciting project,” said Kathryn Van der Heiden.

The site, 102 Railroad Street, was selected by a facilities task force from a dozen potential sites in the village, according to a Center for the Arts press release. The task force was composed of Jane Baker, Ellen Hoover, Rod Hoover, Richard Lapedes and Louise Smith, who evaluated the potential sites on the basis of availability, cost, visibility, centrality, walkability, green potential, construction costs and community acceptance and several other factors, according to the press statement.

The Center for the Arts Steering Committee unanimously accepted the task force’s recommendation, according to a statement from Borchers. The group has an option to purchase the Arnovitz property.

“The potential for synergies and the beneficial impact of this location on our downtown’s economic and social vitality make it a great choice,” he said in the press release, stating that the group’s intent is “to build a high-quality facility for performing arts and a variety of related activities in the heart of Yellow Springs’ village center.”

The facility will be used by local theater, music, dance, art and other cultural and educational groups in the village, according to the statement. At Monday’s meeting, Borchers emphasized that much is still unclear about the site’s appearance and future uses.

“We will try to do the most for the most people,” he said.

Two villagers who spoke at the meeting, Migiwa Orimo and Tony Dallas, expressed their disappointment at the steering committee’s process, which they saw as not inclusive of local working artists. Had the process been more transparent, Dallas said, artists would feel more ownership of the project.

The steering committee is very open to hearing from individuals, and will reach out to local artists in the next few months to help identify needs, Borchers said, adding that the steering committee hopes to hold a public meeting in August to further gauge village needs.

To move forward, the steering committee will form two new task forces, one for the capital campaign and the other for operations and business, Borchers said. He estimated that the project could be complete within two years, adding that he is often optimistic. Initially, the capital campaign task force will pursue a feasibility study for the project.

The steering committee has not yet established a specific financial goal for the capital campaign, according to Borchers in an interview on Tuesday. However, he said, the group estimates that it could need from $3–$5 million, which would include the new facility, an endowment for the facility and upgrades to existing arts facilities. Group members plan to pursue both regional and state funding sources, along with individual donors, according to Borchers.

Should the Antioch College Continuation Corporation succeed in creating an independent college, ACCC leaders view the new arts facility as one that could also serve the college community as well, according to ACCC Chair Lee Morgan in the press release.

“The new Antioch College looks forward to a collaborative performing arts program with the community that will focus energy in the village center,” Morgan stated.

To move forward with the purchase option, the steering committee recently met with the board of Center Stage, the former community theater, to request that the group be revived to serve as the legal entity that would own the property. The Center Stage board agreed, and Bill Hooper, husband of the late longtime Center Stage director Jean Hooper, said he believed his wife would have approved of the effort to build a new theater for the community.

The new arts facility “is the most ambitious aspect of the YSCASC’s three-part plan to strengthen Yellow Springs’ identify as a center for creativity, innovation and the arts,” according to the press release. The three-year old organization, which is funded by the Morgan Family Foundation, has previously worked on ways to help strengthen already existing arts organizations. These efforts include strengthening the structure of the Little Art Theatre, increasing capacity of the Yellow Springs Arts Council and business planning for YS Kids Playhouse.

These efforts followed a three-day community visioning session held in March 2007, which was sponsored by the steering committee to engage the public in helping to create a vision. The event was attended by several hundred villagers.

The committee’s current members are Jane Baker, Harden Ballantine, Anita Brown, Mary Campbell-Zopf, Luke Dennis, John Fleming, Paul Graham, Ellis Jacobs, Rick Kristensen, Amy Lee, Rob Lytle and Gayle Rominger. Laura Carlson is the project coordinator, and consultants Tom Borrup and George Sutton have assisted the efforts.

• Other May 18 Council business, including a discussion on economic development, will be reported in next week’s News.

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