Tribune-Courier News Editor
Having selected a contractor and acquired grant funding, the Marshall County Arts Commission could break ground on its Children’s Arts Center this week.
George Milam, a former president of the commission said the commission opened bids and selected a contractor. He said the commission vetted contractors and subcontractors and believed the lowest bid would be the best.
Benton Mayor Steve Cary said Cleaver Construction of Murray’s bid was $70,000 below other bids. The Benton City Council approved the bid with a unanimous vote.
Ann Riley, president of the arts commission, said the 6,800-square-foot building will cost $844,940. To save money, the building will be unfinished. The commission will finish the building and add space as funds become available.
“As it is now with the present square-footage, the center will have an open room and a stage,” Riley said. “The stage can be used for theatrical and choir performances, and the open room can be used as teaching space or a meeting space. As we finish the building, people can use it for meetings, seminars and for community use. We can and will be having classes for children and will add classes for adults.”
A recent choir concert drew an audience greater then the planned capacity for the theater. Riley said plans already exist to expand the theater. She did not have capacity numbers, but described the theater as having multiple configurations for seating. A dinner theater arrangement would hold a smaller number of seats. The traditional row-seat theater could host a larger audience.
Future expansion could include an art gallery, additional classrooms and other facilities.
Riley said $500,000 of funding came from a community development block grant from the Kentucky Department of Local Government.
“The objective of the center and the commission is to teach children what schools cannot do,” Riley said. “The schools support us. They realize we can focus on teaching art to children.”
To satisfy the conditions of the grant, construction of the unfinished building must finish by July 1, 2013. The building will be built between 12th and 13th streets and between Poplar and Elm streets.
“We appreciate the support of the community,” Riley said. “When the building is up, it’s not finished. It’s just the beginning. When we’re done, we’ll move on to phase 2.”