Arts Center project gains momentum as deadline approaches

Andrew can sing. Evan can play the guitar. And, they are but two of the students in the Specialty Center for the Performing Arts program at Thomas Dale High School. And you may say, why is this important?

Well, each of us has talents that may never have been realized, peaks that were never reached. We all remember them and dream of talents we may never have had the opportunity to develop, and we all want more for our children and our community. Don’t we?

Now is the time to consider  performing and the visual arts, and how it can enhance Chester and Chesterfield County. Envision a state-of-the-art cultural arts center designed to provide a venue for bringing world-class artists and performances to our community. It will offer the opportunity to all, young and old to meet, explore, experience and engage in visual, performing and the literary arts. An arts center will be more than a building – it could be the cultural center for the community.

Imagine the idea of a performing and visual arts center located in the heart of Chester and what it would mean to the community and to the county. That’s just what Betty Matthews considers seriously and has dedicated herself to for many years.

And, it’s what she’s asking you to make a priority. Matthews, you see, is the head of the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation. “We need to raise $1 million to $2 million by July 2014 in order to make the performing arts center a reality,” Matthews said.

If the community raises the $2 million the Board of Supervisors for Chesterfield County will sell bonds to raise the additional $7 million needed to build and maintain the center. This option to sell bonds is only on the agenda until November, 2014 and then the option to sell bonds will be gone and the initiative to have the performing arts center will be off the table.
This is not a new dream. “Back in 1995 or 1996 the citizens of Chesterfield said yes to a new library for Chester and a performing arts center,” Matthews shared. “And, the funds for the building of the library were allocated and the library was built.”

The parcel of land next to the library and back behind the building, and surrounding Chester Village Green, has long been owned by the foundation, and the county earmarked it to build the performing and visual arts center.

Matthews said that it’s been a goal to build the center since 2000. “It’s our goal to raise money for the construction of the building.” The Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation was setup in 2003 to help raise the funds. They were established as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization and have worked to raise the money, and make the dream a reality, since that time. But, after the economic downturn of 2008 things were put on hold.

Now is the time for the community and county to make the performing arts center a reality. “The funds that need to be raised can change this community,” Matthews said. “We need this to create an integrally better quality of life for our community.”

The cultural center would provide a venue for bringing in artists and performances into the community. This could mean the symphony, bands, ballet, singers, opera, plays, and other performances that are rich with culture and opportunities. “This would mean visual arts, performance and literary arts – everyone deserves the opportunity to do things and experience the quality of the arts, to be exposed to new things that the performing arts can give our community, “ Matthews explained.

It’s not just about the center. Business would be attracted to the area based on the center, Matthews explained. “Businesses like to know that there are things for their employees to do and they look for areas where this type of development has been done,” she said.

The center would:

  • house a 350-400 seat theatre/auditorium for music and dance performances and community meetings;
  • have space for exhibits of artists works;
  • have classrooms, meeting spaces and practice studios;
  • expand county library cultural and educational programs.

As it stands, whole generations of children in Chesterfield County have lost the opportunity to play their guitars, their trombones, and their clarinets, read their poems, or act out a play on the stages of a Chesterfield County performing arts venue. Henrico County has invested in its own performing arts center, now is the time for Chesterfield County and Chester to make the commitment to this project. Join them to help this vital effort.

On November 19, the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation and County Leaders will come together to kickoff the fundraising for the performing and visual arts center at the Chester Branch Library at 11800 Centre St. in Chester.

“The need is here,” Matthews said, “Now is the hard part; we’ve got to make the commitment and raise the funds.” She emphasized the importance of understanding that now is the time.

“If we don’t raise the funds by next summer, the bond money will be lost and the opportunity to have this center will be lost.” After November, 2014 the county will lose its authority to sell bonds for the project and Matthews shared that “we’ve already lost a whole generation of kids.”

Matthews said that we need everybody to step forward. She said, “We’ve all got to say we need this and want this.” If every person in the area donated $10 a month for seven months, these pledges would be enough to start the process and begin the building. “Make a pledge of whatever you can spare,” Matthews encouraged.

This is an investment in Chesterfield and the people. “The performing arts center has so much to give and to offer because everyone deserves wonderful police, schools and safety – this is the next step to grow and invest in the community,” Matthews explained.

The foundation needs everyone to be involved, to give whatever funds they can share. There are opportunities to make this dream happen by volunteering or pledging financial support.

The foundation wants help. They ask that you consider being a part of this project by attending the kickoff at the library on November 19 or visit the website at www.artschesterfieldva.org or for questions, email lovartsfoundation@verizon.net. Mail a check today to 11801 Centre St., Chester, VA 23831. No gift is too small to help the campaign.

“It’s an investment in people, and the future,” Matthews said. “The performing arts center – It’s for the children, it’s for families, it’s about education and expanding our minds and about the vitality of this area.”

Now is the time to consider these new horizons for the community and support this opportunity to create a lasting future for generations.

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