Public to brainstorm for proposed performance center

With no concrete plans—much less any concrete poured—the nonprofit group Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts keeps plugging away at its dream of creating a performing-arts center in downtown Asheville adjacent to the Pack Square Park, which is now under construction.

The proposed $85 million facility is far from becoming reality, though the group vows that it will. At this point in the process, key steps are to keep the project alive in the minds of local residents and to give them a stake in the center’s future. To help do that, the group is sponsoring a two-day workshop this week.

Richard Pilbrow, founder of Theatre Projects Consultants and a renowned event-venue planner, will deliver a lecture, “Personal and Community Benefits of a Performance Center,” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, on the third floor the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. The talk will be preceded by a public reception from 5 to 6 p.m.

The following day, Pilbrow and his company’s design director, John Coyne, will facilitate a public workshop to envision a new Performance Center of Asheville from noon to 2 p.m., also at the Chamber’s offices. The arts-center group says anyone from the public is invited to lend their voices and ideas in the brainstorming session, which will focus on gathering suggestions for activities, events, community uses and other aspects of how the performing-arts center could benefit the community.

“This process lets the community have a one-on-one dialogue,” Coyne said in a press release. “It gives people a voice in determining what their performing-arts center can be. It gives them a forum to express their needs and dreams and discuss how a performing-arts center can enrich their lives on both a personal and a community level.”

Joyce Dorr, the arts-center’s board president, echoes Coyne’s sentiments. “We’re not looking for specific design ideas or information yet, but obviously the content, all the components of the facility eventually will determine part of the design,” she says. “At this moment, we’re interested in getting the community engaged now in thinking about it, [and] helping formulate ideas for not just what it would look like, but things that would happen in that facility. Our main goal is to get the community to know this is a performance space in a community living room for everybody in this community. It is not elitist; it is for all kinds of music, and all kinds of events.”

In addition to spending 2007 getting the public involved and excited about a future performance center, the group’s goal this year is to nail down a suitable site, says Dorr. The preferred site remains the city-owned parcel adjacent to Pack Square Park near City Hall. “We haven’t heard that we can’t have it,” Dorr says, “but we don’t have anything in writing.” Additional objectives include jumpstarting a capital campaign to raise money for the construction and working with the HUB Project to analyze ways of accessing public monies to be part of the total funding package. In addition to the actual costs, the group also plans to build a multimillion-dollar endowment.

For more information about the effort to establish the Performance Center of Asheville, call 258-1850 or visit www.theperformancecenter.org

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