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For the week of February 28 through March 6, 2001

Sun Valley seeking vision for cultural center

"We’re interested in how you think it [a cultural center] should be used."

—Linda O’Shea, Sun Valley Councilwoman

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley City Council last Wednesday continued its search for an answer to a question it raised at its town meeting on Jan. 29: "Can a cultural center be built on a five-acre parcel adjacent to the Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church?"

The answer is yes if the wishes of the city council and the different arts organizations in the valley were the only condition that needs to be satisfied. But that is not the case.

Money is an overriding condition. Moreover, last week’s meeting revealed the need for a clear understanding of what the city is offering the arts community and for a unified vision from the arts community.

Mayor Dave Wilson used a hypothetical example to make the point that a cultural center would not only cost money to build but also to sustain.

Using a cost of $400 per square foot for a 25,000-square-foot building, Wilson, a professional builder, came up with a figure of $10 million in construction costs. He said the building’s yearly operating cost would be about $800,000. That, he said, means the center would need a $6 million to $7 million endowment.

The city is offering the land on a lease basis, but it is not offering any money.

Wilson said the city is trying to determine the needs of the community and how it’s going to participate in the creation of a cultural center.

Councilwoman Linda O’Shea said, "We’re interested in how you think it [a cultural center] should be used."

Many and diverse needs were stated at the city’s town hall meeting and at Wednesday’s special city council meeting—office space, gallery space, classrooms, a large performance hall (about 1,200 seats), a small theater (about 400 seats) and a work area.

Some groups like The Clara Spiegel School of Ballet and Performing Arts are not looking for a permanent home, but a place to perform at certain times of the year.

Kim Harrison of the Spiegel school told the council that its performances do not have audiences large enough to fill a large performance hall, so she would like to see the center include a smaller performance area.

But the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities needs "a new home," Marybeth Flower told the council.

"We’re different from other groups," the center’s co-president said, "because we’re multidisciplinary and see ourselves as an educational center."

Flower said the center is "functioning in 6,000 square feet" at present, but that is spread out across several locations.

Jeri Waxenberg, one of the center’s directors, said the representatives of the different arts groups presented the council with a unified vision.

She said the city should accept responsibility as stewards of the land to accept proposals from all the arts organizations. Then, based on all the proposals, it should decide which proposal best serves the city and the community.

Once a proposal has been chosen, she said, the matter of financing can be addressed.

The only certainty about money at this point is that the city will not provide it.

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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.