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New arts, cultural facilities touted

The preferred site is on city-owned land next to the town square in Winslow.

The town square by City Hall could become the cultural heart of Bainbridge.

A consultant this week returned recommendations for new cultural and art facilities on the island, including several downtown parcels as potential sites – cautioning that these are just ideas, and that no property owners have been approached.

“Sites are as much an opportunity as anything,” said Bob Bailey, commissioned by the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council to study local facilities needs. “What we need to do when planning arts facilities is to be opportunistic and realistic so we (need to) know what our needs are.

“If not, you can’t get yourself to the table properly. The situation could change at anytime.”

In a months-long study, Bailey surveyed 23 cultural organizations and interviewed more than 50 community leaders and focus groups representing social services, visual artists and teens.

Bailey found high demand for rehearsal space and classroom space for arts groups; moderate to high demand for exhibition space, and moderate demand for additional performance space.

All respondents supported development of a new community event space.

Bailey sees his report as a master plan for the next 10-15 years. The study, funded by the city and the National Endowment for the Arts, builds on a 2003 “needs assessment” of cultural facilities. Findings were presented to a full house in the council chambers at City Hall.

In the short term, Bailey said Bainbridge Performing Arts’ expansion plans should create more rehearsal space, dressing rooms and classrooms and free up the main performance hall from non-revenue generating rehearsals.

For the long-term, recommendations and ballpark cost estimates included:

• Building a shared school and community performing arts space within a five-minute walk from Bainbridge High School, with 31,000-38,000 square feet and a 300-400 seat performance facility and 100-150 seat studio theater. Cost: $16 -20 million, plus parking.

• A downtown 10,000-12,000 square-foot arts education center with classrooms for teaching art classes, and a 6,000-8,000 square-foot exhibition space. Cost: $5-6 million, plus parking.

• A multipurpose community event space at 12,000-15,000 square feet that could also be used for large performances such as BHS band concerts, large meetings, trade shows and fund-raiser events that often go off island, supported by a full kitchen. Cost: $5-6 million plus parking

• Live/work space for artists at 1,000-2,000 square feet per unit; no scope or cost estimate was offered.

The one site recommendation was for arts education, exhibition and multipurpose community event spaces downtown above an underground parking structure, on the current gravel city parking lot between town square at City Hall and the stores along the north side of Winslow Way.

That location meshes with general recommendations from Winslow Tomorrow.

An alternative location is the current Winslow Post Office parcel, although the site is owned by the federal government.

Sites considered during the study but eliminated include the WSF ferry maintenance property, an expanded Bainbridge Commons, city property at New Brooklyn and Sportsman Club roads slated for a possible future police station, the Commodore building and the Island Music Guild/Rolling Bay.

“When you look at cultural facilities, you look that they form a node or anchor,” Bailey said, comparing it to Sears or Macy’s anchoring a mall. “Arts make great anchors at the edge of urban areas.”

Findings will be presented to the City Council in December, followed by a study of Bainbridge artists’ economic impact on the local economy, and fund-raising and financing options.

“It’s just very positive,” said Karen Rice, director of the singing ensemble “Side By Side” and past director of numerous Bainbridge Performing Arts shows. “Even if it doesn’t go in the direction it feels, it’s going a direction.

“Positive moves forward, negative doesn’t.”

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Study online

The Bainbridge Island Art and Culture Center Feasibility Study will be posted online at www.artshum.org along with a form for readers’ feedback.

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