Recent developments at Ardmore City School’s board of education meetings have transformed a 40-year dream into a tangible possibility.
For decades, administrators and community members have dreamt of a performing arts center — a dedicated space where dance, theatre, music and orchestra could thrive. While many organizations have pushed for the facility to come to life, ACS has led the charge in pushing for the facility.
At last week’s board of education meeting, ACS officially selected a construction company and architects for the initiative, with the next step being developing sketches, plans and designs for the proposed facility.
Kim Holland, ACS superintendent, said the arts have always had a presence in Ardmore.
“We have a very interested, involved part of the community that is into the arts,” Holland said. “That cohesion and overlap between the community and the school district and having a place for them to come together. It would be a showpiece for Ardmore.”
“The need for a fine arts facility is
understood, I think,” Mita Bates, Ardmore Chamber of Commerce president, said. “To have a facility that accommodates the arts is something that would be great for the community.”
One of the primary pushes for a performing arts center is the lack of a facility in the school district. Holland said in planning for the center, a committee—made up of administrators, board members and community members—determined that many school districts of Ardmore’s size have performing arts centers. Currently, ACS doesn’t have a facility that comes close to meeting its needs.
“We really have nothing right now to be able to perform in,” Roxie Woods, Ardmore High School vocal teacher, said, adding that the school district currently has to rent a facility to perform in.
From churches, the Ardmore Convention Center or the Goddard Center, often times the music and performance programs at ACS are left looking for a facility for concerts and performances. Bates said that while the Ardmore Convention Center does have the pieces in place to host many events, many fine arts performances have specific needs that must be met in a different style of space.
Creating a performing arts center, Holland said, would eliminate the need to rent space.
“I think there’s opportunity from K through 12 for kids to benefit from that kind of building,” Holland said. “It will help so we’re not limited to one or twice a year where we go out and negotiate a spot.”
Holland said programs like music, vocal, art and theatre have taken hits recently. With budget concerns often constricting the district, extracurricular activities and programs can easily become the primary recipient of deep slashes and cuts. Holland said the performing arts center could be a flagship for the arts in Ardmore and spark growth in programs that are trending upward even with funds trending down.
“I think it’s time for Ardmore to have this,” Brian Gunter, coach of the ACT, said. “It would allow us to grow and not limit us in the type of things we can host and do.”
Woods and Gunter both said the lack of space has limited the programs in what they can do. Musicals and 1-act plays aren’t possible without a space to perform them in and practice. Woods said having dedicated space for rehearsal and recitals is also needed.
“Having classrooms in the building and private rehearsal rooms would be big,” she said. “I think the entire program would benefit and grow from something like this.”
Creating a performing arts center, however, won’t come cheap. In order to fully accommodate the programs, the facility would need professional grade lighting, sound and staging, a collection of dressing rooms, classrooms, rehearsal/practice rooms, an orchestra pit and roughly 1,000 seats for guests. Creating a first class facility isn’t out of the realm of possibility for ACS, however. Earlier this year, ACS learned from J.C. Leonard, of Stephen H. McDonald and Associates, that the possibility of passing a bond issue for a multimillion dollar facility isn’t out of the question.
The board of education has also discussed the possibility of updating its aging fleet of buses in the bond issue, with the performing arts center serving as the “large ticket item” of the bond. The district has some flexibility in approaching a bond issue, which increases the chance of it passing.
Holland said a bond issue proposal likely won’t come before the public until this Fall, with the committee and district now entering a phase of determining the details of the facility and the details of the proposal. Holland said the emphasis on performing arts is needed, with programs like the band, the ACT, the vocal department and the orchestra finding great success.
The only thing missing from the fleet, Holland said, is the flagship.