Groups say arts center should have two venues

Posted: Monday, February 14, 2005

A handful of arts organizations told the Performing Arts Center Commission on Saturday that any future center should contain at least two differently sized venues.

What size the stages should be, where the center will be located and when it will be built are anyone's guess.

PACC met with arts organizations in a work session Saturday at the Assembly chambers to revisit the groups' needs and share its recent studies on 26 similar arts centers in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

"We wanted to get everyone together to create a joint vision," PACC chairman Wendy Wolf said. "Then we'll go out and talk to the business community. If you don't design something that works for art organizations, they're not going to use it."

The city has been talking about the need for a Performing Arts Center for the last two decades. A taskforce, called by former mayors Ernie Polley and Bill Overstreet in the early 1980s, decided that Juneau needed a convention center and a performing arts center. But though Centennial Hall was completed, an arts center never came to fruition.

Former Mayor Sally Smith appointed a performing arts center taskforce in 2002. Mayor Bruce Botelho changed the Performing Arts Center Commission into a standing committee in 2003 and the city appropriated $22,500 for it. In March 2004, the Annenberg Foundation gave $50,000 to the PACC to begin its campaign. The PACC hired Sheinberg Associates in November to supervise planning and fund development.

"A lot of people were saying it's deja vu all over again; there was hope 20 or 30 years ago, a constantly revisited hope," Wolf said. "But the fact that we could get the $50,000 from the Annenberg Foundation to match the $22,000 we got from the city means there's a lot of interest. The time is right."

Saturday's meeting included members of Perseverance Theatre, Juneau Jazz & Classics, Juneau Dance Unlimited, the Juneau Symphony, Opera to GO! and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, among others.

Most Juneau performances are in theaters with 400 spectators or fewer, Wolf said. But many groups are trying to stage events for crowds of 800 or more.

"We're trying to learn from everything that everybody else did that didn't work, so we can come up with a design and a format to make this happen," Wolf said. "We know how much we would need to raise to build a 700-seat, 1,000-seat or 1,300-seat theater. We have to decide how much we can actually generate in operating budgets to see how many seats we can handle.

"You don't want something too big. A chamber orchestra is going to look silly with 200 people sitting there. That's why were still working out what we can afford and what makes sense."

The PACC will meet March 1, as well as the first Tuesday of every month, in the CBJ conference room. All meetings are open to the public.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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