BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday toured the developing Colonial Arts Center.
The chamber conducted its monthly meeting, Aug. 10 at the Colonial Arts Center and heard from CAC manager Anne Wilson, who laid out some of the plans for the center.
“Even though we’re not fully open yet, we’re about 85 percent of the way there as far as renovations and completion goes, and this space is pretty much finished,” Wilson said, standing in the main stage area. “We’re trying to secure donors to get a big curtain that will go across the proscenium here, but aside from that, we have all of our sound equipment, we have all of our lighting equipment, and these chairs are from the Brushy Fork Event Center.”
Wilson is working with a seating company to secure permanent, telescopic seating that will be portable and movable.
“We’re waiting on the installation of just a handful of housekeeping things, for example, our ADA chair lifts so that people can get up and down the stairs, fire alarms still need to be installed and we are troubleshooting some electrical issues as well as some air conditioner problems,” Wilson said. “The (City of Buckhannon) Street Department and ComforTech are trying to assess all of these issues and we are really, really hoping to be fully open by January. I really want to be opened by then.”
Several areas still to be assessed include the box office and concession stand. Official plans have not been laid out for these areas and contractors have not been hired to construct these areas yet, but they are planning several fundraising events this fall, even without their completion.
“I’m in the works of organizing some Halloween fundraising events with a group of people,” Wilson said. “David McCauley, from the council, is working with me and we’re trying to organize a Zombie Run which will be a 5k during the daytime; this will be more for kids and families in the community,” Wilson said. “Then we’re also going to plan a zombie walk which will be a bar crawl through CJ Maggie’s, Stone Tower Brews and the Whistle Stop.”
The Buckhannon Community Theatre is hoping to use the theater space in the CAC for future productions, including “Clue,” in the fall.
“Buckhannon Community Theatre is doing Frozen Jr. at the Wesleyan theater, but in October we’re hoping they will be able to do ‘Clue’ in here, so their production dates are set for October 6th to the 9th,” Wilson said. “We’re hoping if everything is completed by then, we can have the production in here and I’m hoping they don’t have to find another venue.”
In the spring, Wilson wants to reach out to the community and gauge interest in a Chalk Art Festival, where everyone would decorate the town in chalk.
“Just as far as how the building would be used, aside from what I’ve already talked about, any individual or organization in Buckhannon or Upshur County can apply to rent the space; I’m working on an event request form at the moment that will be available to anybody,” Wilson said. “They can apply to use this art center for anything they see fit, but we will have a rental review committee in place that will have me, a couple of our Colonial Arts Center board members and we’ll sit down and look through rental applications to decide what’s appropriate for the space and what’s not because we do want to keep programming as related to the arts as much as possible.”
Wilson also discussed the arts center’s partnership with West Virginia Wesleyan College, including volunteer and internship opportunities.
“I’ve been in communication with a lot of the folks over at Wesleyan about how to get students over here and what that’s going to look like, so we’re working on creating some pop-up service scholar volunteer opportunities, and I’m hoping that maybe sometime next year I could actually have a permanent or semi-permanent intern position that could be filled each school year by either an arts administration, technical theater or applied art students of some sort,” Wilson said. “I’m also hoping this will just be a creative outlet for Wesleyan students, aside from what they have over at Wesleyan and I’m hoping that they’ll be able to utilize this as much as possible.”
The CAC is still looking for sponsors to fund the furnishings for the dressing rooms and green room, located in the basement.
“We’re in the works of finding sponsors to furnish those rooms and we’re also going to need sponsors for the seating for this space and for the balcony theater, but we’re still waiting on seating estimates and costs, so we’re not sure how much it’s going to cost,” Wilson said.
The Upshur County Board of Education has also hired recent Wesleyan graduate Jacob Spruce as the arts education facilitator to work on the educational programming that will occur in the classrooms in the basement of the facility. Wilson clarified that while she is employed by the City of Buckhannon, Spruce is an Upshur County Schools employee.
“He and I will work together here in the Arts Center. We are going to have offices above the mezzanine, and I will manage the building while he will facilitate educational programming in the Education Center downstairs,” Wilson said. “There’s still a lot of loose ends and details that have to be figured out as far as what this is going to look like because I don’t think something like this has ever really been done before between the city and the Board of Education, but I’m really excited and I’m hoping that when Jacob starts, he can help me figure out some of the education side of things that I’m not really too sure about.”
Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner thanked St. Joseph’s Hospital for their donation to the project.
“I want to make sure we thank St. Joseph’s Hospital because St. Joe’s came forward with a significant financial contribution to sponsor the educational spaces downstairs of $250,000, so St. Joe’s is a great partner in this community and we’re very much appreciative of their commitment to the educational piece of this facility,” Skinner said.