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Md. Performing Arts Seek Funding For Pavilion

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Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

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By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Don’t call it a tent. Pavilion is a much better term for the massive steel and fabric structure proposed as the temporary home of the Maryland Theatre for the Performing Arts, supporters say.

Whatever it’s called, the nonprofit in charge of the project needs to raise $5 to $7 million to build it at Park Place in Annapolis — no small feat in a tough economy and when other arts groups are also seeking funding, most notably Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

But Veronia Tovey, who heads the theater’s board and is publisher and president of What’s Up? Media, said the arts continue to grow locally and there are people willing to fund projects. The plan is to use corporate and private donations. Tovey said the board isn’t counting on any state or city funds.

“There’s a lot of money in this community, that’s what the studies have shown again and again,” she said.

Assuming the mission is accomplished, the idea is to use the pavilion as a calling card for a larger, permanent theater which would cost upwards of $60 million, by attracting world-class shows to the venue.

“I’m energized and excited,” Tovey said. “I think it’s the perfect way to prove the viability of bringing more arts to the community.”

Meanwhile, a feasibility study the city requested on a new or renovated performing arts center is ongoing. The pavilion project is moving forward regardless of the outcome of the study. Tovey said past studies, as well as one done for her board, show the city needs and can support another arts center.

Mayor Josh Cohen is in favor of a new theater.

“Maryland Hall is a wonderful community institution and irreplaceable, but the concept to have a world-class arts facility is real exciting for Annapolis,” he said.

First things first, though.

As of two years ago, many people had given up the theater project for dead after supporters failed to secure state funds.

It was a setback, but far from the end, said Tovey. Plans for the pavilion, which could be up and running as early as fall 2014, were kicked around soon after. Tovey was also working on securing the land for the theater. This April, she got the Carlyle Group to donate the property to the nonprofit, she said. Park Place developer Jerry Parks is on the board of the theater organization.

“Getting the land was huge and really exciting to hear and gave credence to the effort,” said Gary Martinez, the Washington, D.C. architect for the project. His firm of Martinez+Johnson Architecture specializes in theaters and has worked around the world.

On With The Show

In addition to plays, concerts and dance performances, the pavilion could be used for business conferences, weddings and other social events, Martinez said. The idea would be to book maybe 100 events a year.

Tovey said parking wouldn’t be an issue because there are plenty of spaces at Park Place. Traffic also won’t be a problem, she said.

The pavilion’s design would make it easy to divide the space into smaller sections so events or shows which don’t require the full capacity will be able to use it, too, he said.

“It’s very much cutting-edge for a performing arts venue,” said Martinez, who lives in Severna Park. “I’m very excited about it. It will be a special place and something everyone in Annapolis will be proud of when we’re finished.”

Although plans are preliminary, as currently envisioned the pavilion would have a footprint of between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet and seat 850 to 1,000. The ceiling would be 50 to 60 feet high, and the stage would be about 40 feet deep and 90 feet wide. It would be equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting.

Some components might be able to be transferred to the permanent theater, or the pavilion could be sold for reuse, Martinez said. The lifespan of the facility would be upward of five years.

“If we were in the three-to-five year range that is something systems today can achieve,” Martinez said.

April Nyman, executive director of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, said starting with the pavilion was a good idea.

“The larger facility, in today’s economic times, was just not a feasible project,” she said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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