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Arts Center rebuild stays on schedule

November 19, 2005

The Columbia Center for the Arts is taking shape at the corner of Third and Cascade streets. Windows have been cut into the building where the art gallery will soon be, interior walls are being painted and plans for moving in are being discussed.

“We’re pretty much right on schedule,” said Columbia Arts executive director Judie Hanel.

The Columbia Center for the Arts will house the Columbia Art Gallery and CAST, Hood River’s community theater. The combined entities will be the two main occupants of the building, but the center will also host art classes and arts-related forums as well as community events requiring a theater setting.

“Not only will we be able to do theater in here,” said Hanel, gesturing to the soon-to-be 144 seat black box theater, “but dance, music, seminars – it will really be a multi-use space.” The theater space will be completed by volunteer labor sometime next spring. It includes a state-of-the-art sound booth.

The gallery space is nearing completion. Hanel expects to begin moving the gallery into its new home from its current location at Fourth and Cascade in December.

The art gallery is typically closed in January, and the February show will open in the new space. The art gallery will occupy about 1,600 square feet. In addition, there is a large workroom and storage area, as well as a spacious art studio where classes can be held.

An additional feature of the center is the large foyer where the ticket counter will be. That space can be open even when the rest of the building is closed and is large enough for small receptions and other gatherings.

Similarly, the art studio can be accessed through a side door when the rest of the building is closed.

Although the arts center is on track, Hanel said fund-raising continues – as does the need for volunteers, especially to help with the completion of the theater. A work party will be held on Thanksgiving weekend to get painting underway. After that, risers will have to be constructed and seats attached.

Hanel said kudos go to Mark Dane, facilities chair for Columbia Center for the Arts, who has managed the project. “He’s done an amazing job,” she said.

But the most important factor in getting the project off the ground and to where it is, Hanel said, has been the widespread community support.

“We wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for this community that has backed us all the way,” she said.

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Anyone interested in volunteering to work on the Columbia Center for the Arts project can contact Maureen Higgins at 387-4417. For information about the center, contact Judie Hanel at 387-8877 or by e-mail at judieh@gorge.net

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