Mercer Island Reporter


YTN performing arts center will enrich community | Island Forum

By MANUEL CAWALING Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
September 17, 2013 · 11:09 AM

Youth Theatre Northwest's production of 'The Wizard of Oz.' / Contributed Photo

As many of you may have heard, after thoughtful conversations and an official review process with City Council, Youth Theatre Northwest has been given a “green light” to explore the former Recycling Center property (adjacent to Mercerdale Park) as the site for our future home. This incredible news comes at a crucial time. The school district is preparing to set the date for the bond vote that, if approved, will determine the deadline for us to vacate our current site to make way for the construction of a new elementary school here on the North Mercer campus. We may need to move as early as December 2014.

With Youth Theatre as the primary tenant, we envision building the Mercer Island Performing Arts Center as a mainstage for youth arts as well as a home for high-quality arts experiences, attracting professional artists to create dynamic new programming (theater, music, dance, literary and film) for all Islanders.

For the next two years, we will develop a plan to design, fund and build the Mercer Island Performing Arts Center. The Recycling Center site will allow for a minimum footprint of 15,000 square feet. We also aim to pioneer in the new realm of ‘Creative Placemaking,’ a progressive trend that is inspiring communities across the nation. More than just a building with a stage, a ‘Creative Place’ is a centrally located hub for the entire community, with programs that go beyond art to inspire connection, dialogue and community building.

Admittedly, projects like this aren’t easy. Though Youth Theatre has a long and rich history, we are like many nonprofits; small, limited in resources, and modest in scope and staff. To move forward, we aim to raise an initial $100,000 to cover our Planning and Capacity Building Phase, which includes consultants for fundraising feasibility studies, strategic planning, community outreach, initial conceptual designs, expand our fundraising staff, an audit, marketing materials and database upgrades.

We are deeply grateful to the Mercer Island City Council for their passionate support of our vision. This was a huge leap in commitment and respect for YTN and demonstrates the importance of performing arts in our community.  We are grateful to City Manager Rich Conrad and Councilmembers Tana Senn and Jane Brahm for their diligent work on the site taskforce. We are especially grateful to Councilmember Dan Grausz, who has been our most vocal and passionate advocate. We couldn’t have come this far without their help and the support of the entire Council.

As we move forward, we aim to draw upon the insights of the entire community to flesh out our vision and create a home that will serve the entire community. Our ambitious and vital dream will need lots of friends, champions and allies. Certainly, the road ahead is long and we have much to do. But today we celebrate a major milestone.

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