Somewhere over the rainbow?

In Asheville, after years of discussion, planning and re-planning concerning the physical condition and function(s) of the Asheville Civic Center, and after the advent of an entirely separate organization — Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts — to spur planning, funding and construction of a separate new home for the performing arts, at least there is evidence from elsewhere in the state that a new performance center can still become a reality.

The city of Durham, N.C., opened its new Performing Arts Center in the central city on Sunday night with a concert by B.B. King, and celebrates a ribbon-cutting and open house tonight (Dec. 1). And for those in the Asheville area who have long questioned the potential cost for this type of construction, Durham’s 2,800-seat facility came with a $44 million price tag.

The News & Observer of Raleigh has photos and details of the Durham facility, including a feature that would likely cause wry faces from Asheville’s own Civic Center staff and patrons — to say nothing of performers who play here: The facility has a loading dock that will handle three semi-trailers at a time. “If you don’t have a loading dock that is easy to deal with,” architect Phil Szostak told the N & O, “it costs you so much because you have only so much time to get in and out — and then you start paying overtime.” For aesthetics to match such function, the DPAC has a glassed lobby and Jaume Plensa sculpture, “Bridge to the Sky,” that “shoots a vertical shaft of blue light just outside the glass.”

Meanwhile, back in Asheville, at the site of the only existing performing arts space for the masses, the Civic Center Commission meets on Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 4 p.m. in the Banquet Hall. The agenda includes a repairs and maintenance update, discussion of the arena’s ailing roof and plans to refurbish the Banquet Hall.

Nelda Holder, associate editor


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7 thoughts on “Somewhere over the rainbow?

  1. After years of time & money spent with little to show, why not look towards conscious corperations for private support?

    How about the Google Asheville Performing Arts Center?

    I kinda like the sound of that…

  2. Reality Check

    Here we are in the beginning of a recession when significant belt tightening has to be part of our near and long term futures and here we are wanting to spend money on another way to entertain ourselves. Will we ever learn?

  3. There are a lot of people interested in seeing a performance space go in at the Biltmore Square Mall. I’m a fan of a downtown performing arts center on Site B, behind the Hayes and Hopson building. The Civic Center is a money pit, but until it has a replacement, it’s still an economic engine for the city.

    I’d love to see that whole corner become affordable housing…

  4. Gone to Croatan

    Nor would Obama’s plans affect 23 million small-business owners; most, in fact, would see a tax cut. At most, a few hundred thousand of the most affluent business owners would see rates go up.
    When are people finally going to understand that there is overwhelming evidence that any investment in arts infrastructure brings multiple times the amount of money back into the community? It’s been proven over and over again, but amazingly people still fail to grasp this simple fact.

    I was at a meeting for local cultural figures where a presentation for the projected Performing Arts Center was given. My biggest concern, which I expressed at the meeting, is that if the project goes through, it is important to keep the focus unconventional, to distinguish Asheville from other cities. As they say, keep Asheville weird.

    We shouldn’t shoot to be another Greenville or Durham. There are no shortage of towns putting on performances of Cats and Guys and Dolls. People come to Asheville for something different, and that is important not to lose sight of.

  5. AshevilleObserver

    As DPAC stars, arts groups see a competitor

    by Orla Swift, Staff Writer


    E’Vonne Coleman-Cook is . . . excited that the city will have an impressive new venue, but she knows that it could overshadow Durham’s other arts offerings.

    Coleman-Cook has seen it before; she headed the Durham Arts Council for almost a decade and spent seven years working for the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches arts management and consults nationwide in cultural community planning.

    As Coleman-Cook sees it, even though DPAC is a commercial venture — owned by the city but operated by Broadway and concert powerhouse the Nederlander Organization with the Rhode Island-based Professional Facilities Management — it has a duty to the artists who helped build Durham’s cultural scene. Its success should not come at their expense.

    “In places where it’s worked, it’s where there’s been open discussion, strategic planning and total community alignment,” she says.

    The $46.8 million DPAC was approved too quickly for such alignment, Coleman-Cook says, and city leaders instead relied on a simplistic “Field of Dreams” philosophy: Build it, and they will come.

    “The question to be asked now,” she says, “is ‘What role will the Performing Arts Center play in the stabilization of creative expression in the community?’


    Also, note cost of Durham Performing Arts Center at $46.8 million. Why is Asheville Performing Arts Center expected to cost $85 million?

  6. Reality Check

    Croatan – the only problem with your logic regarding the payback on funds used for arts infrastructure is that there needs to be lots of folks ready and willing to pay to go. The present economy is headed more towards bread lines than lines to go to the theater. I would support JBo’s suggestion of private sector investment. No tax dollars.

  7. Gone to Croatan

    Reality Check, you are probably right to assume what you did because it intuitively makes sense, but if you check on the facts you will see that surprisingly, the truth is quite the opposite. The great depression was actually a huge boom for the entertainment industry because history shows that every time the economy dips, people actually like to go to shows a lot more, perhaps to escape their problems.

    In a time of economic challenges in a tourist based economy, investment in the artistic infrastructure is more important than ever.

    The great depression was actually also a profoundly important time for American art, largely because of what was happening in Black Mountain. The Black Mountain College museum asked me if I was interested on being on the board a little while back, and I may take them up on that because I think the same spark that made it possible for such amazing things to happen there may be alive again today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if similar conditions gave rise to an artistic renaissance in the Asheville area in the coming years.

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