Building a sense of community has become the driving force for advocates of a proposed arts center in Columbia County.
The effort to create a cultural and educational facility is spearheaded by Rob Nordan, the music director of the Columbia County Orchestra Association.
"As we have become more active and have had more things going on, we've had to kind of go outside the perimeters of finding other places where we can do things so that we don't overstay our welcome," Nordan said of his organization.
Nordan held two information meetings Thursday at Augusta Christian Schools to unveil architectural renderings and the proposed floor plan to residents and the arts community.
Members of a committee dubbed the "dream team" have met for nine months to discuss building a facility that would meet the needs of arts groups throughout the county.
Planned inside the center is a 1,200-seat auditorium designed for orchestral, choral, drama and dance performances. A covered, 3,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, which could be used for music festivals and school graduations, is proposed for a later phase of the project.
The building could also house an exhibit gallery and rooms for music and science education.
"It sounds like we're trying to do a whole lot of things," said architect McDonald Law, who presented the renderings and floor plans. "In a way, it's easier to do I think when you have lots of different components and supporters."
The total project could cost about $17 million and be completed in four to five phases, Nordan said.
Funding for the center would ideally come first from area businesses and later from major corporations and possibly government or foundation grants.
"We're not going to be able to look to the county or the state to come in and build that," Nordan said. "We're going to have to take the lead with it."
Audience members made suggestions as to what they'd like to see in the center.
Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Beda Johnson advised adding more space for visual arts and creating a gift shop inside the facility.
Though he wouldn't reveal an exact location, Nordan said the center should be built in an easily accessible area.
"I think it's very important for something like this to be located where it is a regional setting," he said.
As the arts continue to expand into the county, Columbia County Ballet Artistic Director Ron Jones said he thinks building a center is a great idea.
"Not just the arts and artists are thriving, but the people, just the community in general, is embracing it," he said.
Photo by Jenna Martin
Architect McDonald Law offers details of an educational, cultural and arts center proposed in Columbia County.
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