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Brainstorming supports arts facility

But what will it have, and how to pay? A summer-long study looks at options.

Does Bainbridge Island need more space for the arts?

Participants in a cultural arts facility meeting Tuesday night returned a resounding, “Yes.”

“We heard about dreams and visions, but they were tempered by the realities of developing and sustaining an arts facility,” said Bob Bailey, a consultant who will be putting together the feasibility study.

A crowd of about 100 attended the meeting hosted by the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council at the Playhouse. The lack of affordable space for activities ancillary to performances or exhibitions was cited repeatedly, as participants called for more artists’ studios and rehearsal and set-building areas.

The Playhouse performance space is being used for non-revenue generating activities like rehearsals five days a week because of lack of space elsewhere, said Mark Sell, acting managing director. As performances and shows are frequently put on through volunteer efforts, the spaces are needed most frequently from 6-10 p.m.

Island Music Guild President Norm Johnson said the 85-seat performance space at the new guild hall in Rolling Bay saw immediate demand.

“Within 30 days (of opening the hall), the entire calendar (for the performance space) was booked up,” Johnson said.

Other comments from participants were varied: not enough big venues, not enough smaller venues, make “Bainbridge Island” associated with arts as Santa Fe, N.M. is, narrow the arts focus to serve the broader community, support rock bands, support future art disciplines, make places for artists “to be messy,” serve art of ethnic communities, build structures that are art, build structures that are simple and functional, take advantage of the ferry terminal renewal plans.

To the voices concerned with the cost of paying for and maintaining a new facility, Bailey agreed, saying that a sustainable facility also needs capitalization to run it after it opens.

“If you don’t have (vision, leadership and money), you won’t succeed, I guarantee you,” he said.

Co-facilitator Bill Cleveland suggested that islanders “are generous but discerning and don’t want to see suggestions coming willy-nilly.”

On the demand side of art, Bailey said the island has the advantages of a well-educated population with income.

Statistically, a better educated populace – the island has 50 percent more college graduates than Washington on average – is more likely to participate in arts, he said. Affluence – Bainbridge’s median income is one-third higher than Seattle’s – correlates with more frequent participation.

Through September, Bailey will conduct interviews with the island’s “leadership community” and solicit technical needs from user groups.

A progress report, which will also include case studies of projects in other communities with similar population and demographics as Bainbridge, will be presented to the Cultural Facilities Advisory Committee in a public meeting this fall.

The 18-member committee will provide guidance to Bailey throughout the process, said Janice Shaw of the Arts and Humanities Council. The committee members are interested in the arts and represent a cross-section of the community with ties to service organizations, schools, parks, city, Winslow Tomorrow, the senior center, the Teen Center and more.

Following, Bailey will work up a facility plan, site analysis, cost estimate and management and operations plan for the final presentation of the feasibility plan.

Shaw emphasized that the planning is looking at future and not just immediate needs. But by starting the planning now, “It’s possible that if an opportunity presents itself, (the plan) could let us hit the ground running,” she said.

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Help facilitate

Those interested in contributing thoughts, suggestions and stories that illustrate what is needed in a future cultural arts facility on Bainbridge Island are urged to send them to the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council at biahc@artshum.org or 221 Winslow Way West, Suite 200. Call 842-7901 for more information.

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