Tribune-Courier General Manager
It’s been a long time coming, but the curtain is about to go up on the first public production inside the new Children’s Art Center in Benton.
On April 19 at 7 p.m. a group of 2nd-8th grade students from Marshall County, directed by Christian Fellowship senior Leiren Jackson will present “Twelve Dancing Princesses.”
Children’s Art Center volunteer George Milam said while the facility still lacks some important production details like theatre lighting and a sound system, the building is ready to host the public.
“We have a priority wish list and we will work our way down it as funds become available until we get everything we’d like to have, but we are ready to get started in here,” said Milam. “This has been a long and drawn out process but we can finally see the tunnel, if not the light at the end.”
The Children’s Art Center has overcome a number of obstacles during the construction project, most notably the discovery of a centuries-old family cemetery on the property last fall.
The site was shut off to workers for more than three weeks while officials determined how to proceed.
Unexpected expenses and delays were also felt when it was determined handicap accessible restrooms and water fountains were required in the back-stage area of the center to meet building code requirements.
Partially funded by a $500,000 community block grant, Milam credits the public for donations that have provided many needed furnishings and hours of volunteer efforts to get the center ready for its first production.
He said 250 theatre chairs, cabinetry and stage curtains were donated by individuals and community groups, along with volunteers who helped get the center painted.
The center has been constructed and furnished with the goal of being multi-purpose.
The lobby will serve as an art gallery and classroom space. A kitchen will allow for the production of dinner theatre-style productions.
Milam said the facility will also be available for rental to the public for wedding receptions and other events in the coming months.
A number of camps and workshops are planned for the summer. An instrumental music camp is open to middle school band students June 2 – 13. In addition, Youth on Stage, Camp smART and an American Girls Camp will be held in the new center.
In addition to the production of “Twelve Dancing Princesses,” the center will host a production of Kidz Pop Khorus on May 3 at 3 p.m. and a fashion show on May 10.
Milam advises the parking for the April 19 event may be challenging, with the center’s lot scheduled for paving during that time.
He advises attendees to park along both sides of 13th Street and in the lot of Cole Lumber.
He said he expects 250 people to attend the inaugural event at the center.