City builds facility for theatre

Tallahassee residents seem to agree that a performing arts center would be great for the community. A major fundraising event was held last Tuesday in order to recruit members and supporters for the capital’s upcoming project – The Florida Center for Performing Arts and Education, Inc.

Aside from the local theatres at Florida A&M and Florida State Universities and Tallahassee Community College, the city’s only other performing arts venue is the Civic Center; according to the Florida Center website, by having its own facility, Tallahassee will be able to draw individuals from all over the state.

The website explained that the new performing arts center will be located in the heart of Tallahassee’s downtown district, where the old Johns Building is right now. And depending on available dollars and community input, the center will feature two performing venues – a midsized all purpose theatre with up to 650 seats and a large concert hall with up to 2,200 seats.

Supporters agree that a new venue will provide a hall for traveling Broadway shows to symphony concerts and everything in between.

Among those supporters is Valencia Matthews, a director of FAMU’s Essential Theatre, who said she is excited about the idea of a new performing arts center.

“I think its way past time,” said Matthews who serves as the assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Tallahassee is a great city first and foremost. I think it has the people in the community that is interested in the arts. We have the university theatres at FAMU and FSU but the artists need to have a place to go and perform because there are so many organizations and artistic groups that need a place to call home where they can perform.”

According to the website, a new performing arts center will be good for the economy as well. A recent study by the RAND institute showed the impact that the centers have had throughout the nation. It showed a 24 percent increase in economic activity over the past five years. It also illustrated that $10.9 billion in personal income is generated in cultural, historical and library reflected industries.

Paula Smith, who serves on the fundraising committee of The Florida Center for Performing Arts and Education, said the city could definitely use the facility.

“We are so committed to having a performing arts center for Tallahassee,” said Smith, who has lived in Tallahassee since 1978. “We are working hard to bring this center to becoming a reality. I think the facility will help move our town forward. It’s entertainment, it’s education and it’s economic development and Tallahassee needs that.”

Smith is not the only one who believes the performing arts center will help Tallahassee. Jeff Brainard, a member of Network of Young Professionals, an organization that is assisting The Florida Center for Performing Arts, said he thinks its past time for the city to have this kind of facility. He also said the road to making it an actuality has been rather lengthy.

“It’s an initiative that they started back in the 70’s and its one of those things that you always have people who are really excited about it but then you have some people who maybe aren’t as excited,” said Brainard, 26, a Florida State graduate,”I think why not Tallahassee and why not now.”