The curtain may finally rise on a long-proposed arts center in Gilbert, as town officials work on a concept for a facility and put up seed money.
But with bows already taken for centers in Chandler, Mesa, Queen Creek, Higley High School and soon in Tempe, the town faces a challenge in coming up with a unique facility.
“When I first started 10 years ago, I would have liked to have seen us do a huge place, a performing arts thing kind of like in Mesa,” said Elizabeth Cress-Sweet, chairwoman for the town’s Arts Advisory Board.
“Now we’re surrounded by huge places,” she said. “It would be silly and intrusive of us to look at something like that, partly because we’d be fighting for revenue.”
Meetings beginning in June are planned to cull public input for the center. No dates have been set.
The advisory board has spent the last few weeks touring area arts centers as they come up with their own ideas ranging from a theater hall to fine arts exhibits and classrooms.
“We need to look at all of the arts for Gilbert,” Cress-Sweet said. “Personally, I’d like to bring in national exhibits like the Smithsonian or the Heard (museum).”
The town’s director of art programs, Kimberly Grace, said the key is to find something on a smaller scale but unique, and that can “keep people coming back.”
“Once the ideas are put forth, we’d have to investigate how something like this can be built and funded,” she said.
The Town Council in January agreed to use $600,000 from the sale of the old Boys and Girls Club building at the northeast corner of Gilbert and Elliot roads as seed money for building an arts center on eight acres of vacant land on the southeast corner of Gilbert and Elliot roads.
For years, town officials have talked about a future arts center and now the process is officially under way, but it likely won’t be completed for several years, Grace said.
One reason it’s important to differentiate from the other larger surrounding centers is a copyright law that can make it difficult or impossible to perform the same copyrighted show or even song, at more than one venue in a town in one year, Grace said.
Cress-Sweet said that because Gilbert has not made plans to set aside funding for the facility’s operations, as is done in other cities, massive fundraising will be relied on to get the project going.
“I think it’d be good to have (an arts center) here,” Gilbert resident Nicole Herbert said.
And, she said, if it included children’s art courses “that would be something I’d definitely be interested in.” She currently takes her children to art classes at the Mesa Arts Center.
E.V. arts centers
Chandler Center for the Arts
(www.chandlercenter.org): Opened in 1989, with a 64,000-square-foot, 1,550-seat concert hall; and a 2,000-square-foot exhibition hall for showing student art.
Higley Center for the Performing Arts: Opened March 2006 at the high school with 1,250 seats in a main auditorium with a smaller 180-seat venue, dressing room and scene shops.
Mesa Arts Center
(www.mesaartscenter.com): Opened last year, the 212,775-square-foot complex has four theaters, five fine arts galleries and 14 visual and performing art studios.
Queen Creek Performing Arts Center (www.qcpac.com): Opened in April 2003 at the high school, the 797-seat theater includes an orchestra pit and recording technology.
Tempe Center for the Arts: Expected to open in 2007, the center along Tempe Town Lake will include music, theater and dance.