Feasibility study for performing arts-civic center on MC campus gets underway this week

May 6, 2003

Work on a feasibility study that will determine the potential need and magnitude of a fine and performing arts/civic center facility that might serve the community as well as Maryville College begins this week.

Jointly funded by Maryville College, the city of Alcoa, the city of Maryville and Blount County, the feasibility study gets underway May 8, when members of the Fine and Performing Arts/Civic Center Feasibility Study Task Force hold their first meeting with Webb Management Services, Inc., the firm selected to conduct the project.

“We are excited to get the feasibility study underway and are very pleased with the quality and expertise of the task force membership, ” said Mark Cate, Maryville College vice president for advancement and admissions and chair, who is chairing the task force.

The task force is charged with guiding the feasibility study, receiving the final report, and then making recommendations for next steps.

According to Cate, the task force is made up of 10 residents who represent local government, schools and performing arts entities. They include: Assistant Blount County Executive Dave Bennett, Maryville College Fine Arts Division Chairperson Mark Hall, Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Vice President Herb Handly, Maryville City Manager Gary Hensley, Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson, Palace Theater owner Steve Kaufman, Heritage High School Principal Vandy Kemp, Van Metre School of Dance owner and director Amy Moore Morton and Maryville High School Orchestra Conductor Bill Robinson.

Sarah Jaycox, a consultant with Webb Management, will work with the task force. She holds a master’s degree in theatre from Northwestern University and has extensive experience in the performing arts.

Founded in 1997, Webb Management is a New York-based consulting firm interested in the development and operation of cultural facilities and for the advancement of cultural organizations. According to the company’s mission statement, Webb associates believe the arts play a “vital role in shaping our world” and they “support the creative process with sound and imaginative planning and services that lead to cultural and community development.”

From a request for proposals bid, the College received applications from four different firms, but Webb’s specific experience and expertise in public-private ventures gave them the upper hand, Cate said.

“While Webb has completed many studies focused on fine and performing arts centers, their associates also have worked with numerous clients to plan civic centers that included large multi-purpose and multi-functional spaces,” he added.

Webb associates are expected to meet with members of the task force throughout the summer, as well as conduct interviews with at least 40 key business and civic leaders, organizations and community groups to collect additional relevant information.

A final presentation to the task force slated for the end of August.

The current Maryville College Fine Arts Center was completed in 1950 and includes a 254-seat music hall, music library, art studio, gallery and classroom and office spaces. The MC Window of Opportunity Plan, a strategic plan adopted by the College’s Board of Directors in April 2002, calls for a “newly constructed Center for the Fine and Performing Arts [that] will significantly enhance the educational offerings of the College and integrate community and regional activity in the arts.”

“ The College is fully committed to building a new fine and performing arts facility. But what a great opportunity we have to see if there is a desire to build a facility that will meet not only our needs but the community’s needs, as well.”

For more information on the feasibility study, people in the community are asked to call the College’s Office of Communications at 865.981.8209.