The Performing Arts Initiative, a nonprofit formed in 2016 for the purpose of building a state of the art performing arts center in the Gorge, has just launched three major efforts aimed at moving their dream closer to reality: A new logo, a new, improved website, and  the formation of a consortium of area businesses that give financial support to the  project.

The logo and website were designed with the assistance of Ted Olson, White  Salmon-based artist and designer. 

PAI President Mark Steighner said that in addition to the newly redesigned website, which was paid for by a grant from the Hood River Cultural Trust, the PAI recently held a kickoff breakfast for the new Business Consortium.

“The Business Consortium was  formed to help provide seed funding for the current phase of the project,” Steighner said in a press release. “This phase will  cost approximately $1 million and includes the hiring of key staff positions: a project  manager, a capital campaign planner, and an architect.”

Steighner said the first Business Consortium breakfast raised nearly $10,000 and the  newly formed group includes Powder Pure, Laughing Deva LLC, Apland Jewelers, and Number Works.

The next meeting of the consortium is planned for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Naked Winery. Gorge businesses interested in participating should contact Emily Vawter at ​emilyv.mtbc@gmail.com​ or 503-869-5645 

The PAI was officially formed in January 2016 by Steighner and an all-volunteer board made up of representatives from the arts, business and technology fields. The PAI received its federal nonprofit status later that year and has been steadily pursuing the necessary steps that all large-scale projects must complete. Early on, PAI commissioned a feasibility study from ECONorthwest and extensive programmatic studies from Mark  VanderZanden and Surround Architecture.

Most critically, the project has identified suitable land to lease for the performing arts center and has entered into a legally recorded contract that will secure the property for use by PAI, said Steighner.

“As many Gorge residents recognize, we have a thriving performing arts scene but a  limited number of venues, all of them limited in some way — either by size, location, capacity or infrastructure,” Steighner said.

“Our goal is to build a 600-seat, state of the art performing arts center that will not only be another environmentally-friendly and beautifully designed ‘jewel’ in an already attractive landscape, but provide a home for our many local performers. Additionally, the size and location of the center will be  attractive to corporate events as well as professional touring acts looking for an excellent  alternate venue close to Portland.”

The PAI’s goal is to build a home for not just music  and theater, but dance, spoken word and lectures, film, community events and high-tech  meetings.

“As someone who has directed and performed music and theater in the Gorge for nearly 40 years, I can state pretty strongly that we really need this facility,” Steighner said.

“Hood River was recently identified in the ‘top 10’ best small communities for the arts, but we are nearly alone on that list for not having a community-supported performing  arts center. We already do amazing things here. Just imagine what positive impact this center will have on our community, not just economically, but in terms of quality of life, cultural enrichment and shared experiences.”

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