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arts center plan for High Point

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Planning for another Triad arts center.

10-16-03

By JUSTIN CORD HAYES, Staff Writer

News & Record

HIGH POINT, NC -- The city's arts council is planning a cultural arts center that could include galleries, rehearsal and performance space, and classrooms.

The High Point Area Arts Council announced Wednesday that members will meet with city and business leaders later this month to begin making plans for the center's design and fund-raising efforts.

The time-line for the center is two to three years, but planning is in the early stages. The arts council doesn't know where it will be, how much it will cost or how money will be raised. It would include space for the city's arts organizations.

"This is not an overnight dream to come true," said Bettye Alston, chairwoman of the arts council. "It's long-range. But with community support, it will come true."

The arts council's affiliates, the Downtown Improvement Committee and other community-focused agencies, as well as business and civic leaders, have taken an interest in the project, said David McCoy, a member of the arts council's board.

"We had looked in the past at various locations for a center, but they didn't pan out for one reason or another," he said. "We probably already should have a facility, but now there's a strong commitment from the community for a center."

The quest for a cultural arts center in High Point dates back at least to 1980, when the High Point Enterprise moved out of its Main Street location and left the building in the hands of the nonprofit Enterprise Community Center. The building became home to the Holt McPherson Center, headquarters of many of the city's arts and nonprofit organizations.

Several nonprofits left the building and relocated. Rent from the few arts organizations remaining by the late 1990s was not enough to cover maintenance costs for the aging building, which was sold in 1999.

Proceeds from the sale were given to the High Point Community Foundation with the idea that the $500,000 would be used to raise matching dollars to help pay for a cultural arts center. The arts council was given three years to formulate plans for a center. When time ran out, the council asked for an extension.

The foundation's board of directors must approve plans for the cultural center before the arts council can receive the money.

The matter will be taken to the foundation's next executive board meeting, said Paul Lessard, the foundation's executive director.

The community foundation supports the idea of a cultural arts center, but would back a project only if it is "a credible plan that could actually happen," Lessard said.

Lessard added he's hopeful the arts council will present a strong proposal.

"From a foundation perspective, we're looking to build a healthy community. And the arts are crucial to creating a well-balanced community. A project like this could really excite the community about the arts."

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