By Sam Crisler The Ashland Gazette
ASHLAND — Discussions about creating a performing arts center in the Ashland-Greenwood public schools date back to at least the mid-2000s, when there was talk of expanding the middle/high school building to include an auditorium and the city’s public library.
The auditorium would have replaced the district’s existing performance hall, which doubles as the high school gymnasium.
An extension to the west wing of the middle school/high school building began in 2009 with no auditorium in the plans. The Ashland Community Resource Center replaced the old city library and opened downtown in 2015.
Hopes of building a performing arts center did not come to fruition until 2020, when AGPS passed a bond issue for the construction of a PreK-2 building and a new middle school that will eventually house the high school. Ashland-Greenwood.
People also read…
Plans for the latter building include a performing arts center, which is beginning to take shape on the site northwest of the current middle/high school building.
The auditorium was included in the overall project budget, but AGPS Superintendent Jason Libal said the intention had always been to fund much of the performing arts center through donations private.
In the coming weeks, the Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools Foundation – in conjunction with a steering committee that includes support from the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation, Ashland Chamber of Commerce and Ashland Creative District, among other groups – will launch a campaign to raise $4.5 million for the performing arts center by next July.
More than $3 million has already been covered, Libal said, through donations ahead of the campaign’s soft launch during Stir-Up in July.
“When we launched the bond issue, (private donors) rushed to the table and said, ‘Hey, it’s important to have the auditorium included, and here’s how we want to support it,'” declared Libal.
When completed, the auditorium will accommodate over 700 people and balcony seating, as well as professional acoustics and lighting.
“I think there was such early support for (the performing arts center) to happen, especially from the private sector,” Libal said. “They wanted to be involved to make sure it was a state-of-the-art facility like no other.”
The school district is launching the campaign with the help of Michele Tilley of marketing firm BCom, who helped with fundraising efforts for the ACRC. She said local organizations were happy to join the cause of the performing arts center because of its potential impact on schools and the community as a whole.
“It’s not just the school system that needs this place. It’s the city itself,” Tilley said.
She said the campaign will focus on making the performing arts center accessible to the Ashland-Greenwood community outside of the student body. She said the steering committee hopes to attract touring musicians, speakers and plays to the hall.
“The reason this venue is a public-private partnership is that, yes, it’s going to increase the school’s resources, but there’s great interest in bringing regional and national artists…to Ashland,” Tilley said. . “And that would be the place where it would happen.”
The facility’s name — the Ashland-Greenwood Performing Arts Center — was deliberate in its omission of a direct reference to the school district, Libal said.
“We wanted people to feel like it was a school place, but also a community place,” Libal said. “It’s really not directly related to school. Our goal is for the facility to be used and used often.
He said he thinks bringing professional artists and performers to the site will inspire students and make them aware of the possibilities that exist in the performing arts.
“So maybe their self-interest and their batteries rejuvenate, or a fire breaks out in their guts to say, ‘Hey, I want to be on that stage one day,’” Libal said.
The original fundraising goal for the campaign was $3.5 million, Libal said, but increased to $4.5 million as costs increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19. A recent addition to the design plans is also a recording studio, which Libal says will allow students to record auditions for band and choir from all lectures with professional audio tools.
“It wasn’t on our (radar) at first, but as we went to other sites and facilities, it was something we felt we really needed to add,” Libal said. “It was also important for some of our donors.”
Tilley said the steering committee is looking for more members as the campaign becomes more visible in the coming months, and they can find more information on agperformingarts.comwhere donations are also accepted.
Sam Crisler is a reporter for The Ashland Gazette. Contact him by email at email@example.com.