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Theater supporters go to work

The group supporting the development the concept of building a Mercer Island Performing Arts Center (MIPAC) in the Town Center had its first meeting Nov. 11.

More than 60 community members attended. They included city and school leaders, business owners, arts organizations and community activists and Youth Theatre Northwest supporters, the Farmer’s Market and interested citizens.

In a press release, MIPAC Taskforce Chair John Gordon Hill outlined the elements that form what he called, the vision for a performance arts center, here.

Hill is a filmmaker, director, musician, teacher, arts advocate, and long-time resident of Mercer Island

“The MIPAC will be a multi-theatre venue for plays, dance, concerts, recitals, lectures, films, and all forms of performing art; a cultural gathering place for Mercer Island and the surrounding communities; a key amenity and downtown destination draw not just for children and families, but for seniors and all adults as well.”

The MIPAC will offer something nearly every single day of the year, he continued.

The press release said outside arts organizations are interested in the concept.

“The MIPAC will also attract regional and national music acts, and all manner of performing artists, raising the profile of Mercer Island as a center for the arts. Interest has been expressed by major Seattle theatrical companies for mounting productions in such a venue.  It will also be a space for the exhibition of visual arts. It is envisioned that the lobby and other public areas will be a place of continuously rotating shows of painting, photography and sculpture,” the press release said.

The MIPAC would be the permanent home of the 30-year-old Youth Theatre Northwest that serves over 2,000 youth each year with drama related classes. It holds several performances and events each year.

The Mercer Island School District has plans to reclaim its land that is YTN’s at current home to build a new elementary school. The old building will be torn down. YTN must find a new place for its drama classes and productions.

At a City Council planning session in June, the Council set up a committee to study possible facility scenarios both in terms of sites and in terms of a business relationship between the City and YTN.

The committee included Councilmember Jane Meyer Brahm, Councilmember Tana Senn, City Manager Rich Conrad and Youth Theatre Northwest Executive Director Manny Cawaling.

They were to evaluate six proposed sites and choose one, based on parking, traffic and access, land use and financial viability.

The committee’s recommendation was that the old recycling center site be studied for the future facility.

At the Aug. 12, meeting, Conrad also explained that committee’s  recommendation assumes that YTN would serve as the primary tenant of the facility and that other public performances would be accommodated. YTN would undertake the design, construction, financing, and management of the future facility.

The City’s role will be confined to providing the land for the new facility plus access to parking spaces at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop and in the adjacent public rights-of-way.

The report also said “further public presentations and outreach will be necessary before the City Council can make an irreversible commitment of the public lands.”

Councilmember Senn noted then, that “YTN has to demonstrate that they can accomplish the project.

Arts and community organizations have been are invited to contact the MIPAC taskforce about how they might use it. The taskforce also wants input into the size of performance venues, classroom and rehearsal spaces needed, and number of days per year that they might need.

This input will serve as a starting point for designing a facility with sufficient space to accommodate as many needs as possible, within the limits of the site and the MIPAC’s ability to raise money, the report said.

Email any questions or comments to info@mercerislandpac.org.

 

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