Opinion

Let's seize chance to create arts center

By Scarlet Foster-Moss

Vashon Allied Arts’ announcement that the arts organization is a recipient of a $1.15 million dollar grant as part of the state’s Building for the Arts program has spawned a great deal of interest, community conversation and speculation about our plans for an arts center. So I want to provide our community with an overview of our project status and future plans.

Day in and day out, VAA works to fulfill its mission: to support the arts and artists in our community. For Vashon, arts are at the very core of our culture. It is a way of life and the way many Islanders make a living. The creativity, innovation and inspiration that stem from art in all its forms help ensure ours is a vibrant and thriving community.

Vashon Allied Arts is the Island’s most significant arts catalyst, and as such, the organization is seizing the historic opportunity presented to it by building the Vashon Island Center for the Arts.

Over the last two years, VAA’s board and staff have methodically completed the research and preparation necessary for launching a multi-million dollar building and renovation project. This is a not an assignment we’ve taken lightly. Countless hours have been spent by a broad coalition of VAA members to assure that the center will serve not only Vashon’s current needs but also those of generations ahead.

By Scarlett Foster-Moss

Our goal from the very beginning has been and continues to be to build a multipurpose arts center that meets the programming needs of VAA. The center will serve as a showcase for visual and performing Island artists. We will build it in the most economic and environmentally sustainable manner, always mindful that any new construction must fit into its site in terms of size and aesthetics.

Let me summarize our efforts to date.

First, we received our lead, cornerstone gift from Kay White. With the help of Mrs. White’s advisors and generous donations of time and expertise from Island financial experts, we mapped out how to use this generous gift to lay the foundation for a new building, while also setting money aside for an endowment to ensure that all of VAA’s facilities and programs are sustained well into the future.

VAA then conducted programs research to identify our current space needs and project our future space needs. Our programs committee also researched the capacities and programs of other Island arts and education organizations in order to give us a sense of how much new space we needed.

We then needed to determine how much the new building would cost. To assist in this process, we interviewed three architectural firms to do a concept study. Because of the very specialized needs of building an arts facility that includes a theater, such as acoustics, back-of-stage mechanics, audience experience, etc., we quickly realized there were only a few architectural firms in the region that had both the expertise and experience we sought.

After establishing our criteria and conducting an interview process, we chose LMN Architects to do a concept study. LMN’s concept study provided us with the volume of space we needed for a new building that met our programmatic needs and an estimate of building costs.

The actual design of the building has not started. Working with our architects, VAA will involve the community at large in creating a center that is respectful of Vashon’s history and its modern needs. Projects of this scope are expensive. With the concept study complete, we knew we had enough land and had a target goal of money that we needed to raise; our estimate is the new building will cost $11 million.

We are in the midst of a capital campaign feasibility study, which is being conducted by a consultant to determine how much we can raise from Island residents. Simultaneously, we have been applying for grants from government and private sources. These efforts already have resulted in more than a million dollars in grants from the state’s Building for the Arts funds and King County’s 4Culture.

As you can see, VAA has pursued a rigorous process to get to this point, and we are still years away from breaking ground. Those who speculate about the look and location of the new building are jumping the gun. The building is not designed. Please be patient and help shape the design of the new building by participating in upcoming community feedback sessions. These sessions will solicit broader community input into the design of the new building. What will it look like? How will it be situated in relation to the Center intersection? How can other organizations make use of the new space?

Vashon Allied Arts and the residents of Vashon/Maury Island have an historic opportunity to invest in the future of our community. Thanks to the support of our members and the generosity of our donors, our community can fully embrace our deep roots in the arts and ensure that our children and grandchildren have access to the arts in a high-quality, fully functional setting — right here on the Island.

— Scarlett Foster-Moss is president of the board of trustees for Vashon Allied Arts and a public affairs consultant.

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