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Gig Harbor group to raise funds for feasibility study on arts center

After a year of waiting, the Gig Harbor Arts Center Alliance expects to receive its official 501(c)3 status from the Internal Revenue Service this spring — and with that, it can start fundraising for a feasibility study. Organizers have been working on the idea of a regional arts center for a couple of years, but need the feasibility study to determine operating costs, revenue potential and economic impact of the proposed campus. The study would also help determine whether the proposed center is the right size and fit for the community.

“There have been a lot of arts centers that closed doors because their model wasn’t set up to accommodate bad economic times,” said alliance president Anne Knapp, a Gig Harbor artist and former president of Peninsula Art League. “We want to make sure the center would be sustainable and more regional (in reach.)”

The current vision is for an 88,000-square-foot campus in Gig Harbor North. The proposed center would include conference space, multiple studios for different activities, classrooms, a commercial kitchen, a community theater, a performance hall with an orchestra pit, a black box theater, a ballroom and an amphitheater, among other amenities. The design of the center was the result of collaboration among several arts and community groups as well as four charrette sessions with an architect.

Cost was estimated more than a year ago at $30 million, and one financing method the group has discussed is the creation of a public facilities district, an independent municipal corporation under state law.

“We dream big. I think having a range of building sizes and meeting rooms would be valuable to our community, but the feasibility study may find that not to be the case,” Knapp said.

The study is estimated to cost $50,000 and Knapp said the board had several consultants in mind. “We want to go to someone very qualified and experienced,” she said.

If everything goes as planned, the alliance will kickstart its fundraising with an event in June in conjunction with Gig Harbor’s annual Maritime Gig festival. The plan includes a gala and auction of oars created by artists like Knapp, and her goal is to have 50.

“People in the community have helped already but we need more to get involved,” Knapp said.

She said the feasibility study would be comprehensive and would take about six months to complete.

“The center has huge potential,” Knapp said. “The more we talk with other organizations, the more possibilities we find.”

For more information about the project, go to www.gigharborartscenter.org.

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