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Community Arts Center Improvements Planned


From left, Davie Jane Gilmour, president, Pennsylvania College of Technology%3B former state Rep. Brett O. Feese%3B and William J. Martin, senior vice president, Penn College.The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development recently awarded $400,000 to the Community Arts Center, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania College of Technology. The funds will be used to upgrade the historic facility located in downtown Williamsport.

The announcement was made on the eve of the 14th anniversary of the unveiling of the refurbished Community Arts Center. Penn College had purchased the former Capitol Theatre years earlier and, with the support of 800 contributors (one of the largest fundraising campaigns in the community’s history), was able to create a regional cultural and entertainment center that has hosted an audience of more than 900,000 for movies and live events.

With the grant funding, the center will acquire new technology that has been introduced since the original systems were purchased 14 years ago to improve sound and lighting quality, as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning. New sound-control boards, amplifiers and speaker units will be added, and the assisted-listening system will be improved. The purchase of contemporary lighting systems and a lighting-effects control board will save rental-equipment costs required for some productions.

In addition, some funds will be used to replace carpeting, furnishings and accessories in some heavy-traffic areas that have deteriorated over the years. A special part of the theater’s décor, its carpeting is a replica of the original carpet installed in 1929.

The refurbishing work will be done this summer. A community event to unveil the new enhancements is being planned in conjunction with the opening of the theater’s new season of performances in the fall.

Davie Jane Gilmour, who, as president of Pennsylvania College of Technology also serves as president of the board of the Community Arts Center, said that the facility has provided a twofold benefit to the community enriching the area both culturally and economically.

“People often overlook the powerful economic impact that the arts exert,” she said. “Economists tell us that, for every $1 spent on a ticket for a performance, an additional $8 is spent in the local area.”

She shared that, on the night of a sold-out performance by “American Idol” performer Clay Aiken last December, there was not an available hotel room in the local area. More than half of the tickets for that evening’s performance were sold to people who lived outside northcentral Pennsylvania.

In addition to hosting some of the world’s most popular performing artists from the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Pops to Barry Manilow and Bill Cosby the Community Arts Center also has been a performance venue for local performers some who now appear as opening acts for many Arts Center events.

The center also has served as home for local organizations, including the Williamsport-Lycoming Arts Council and the First Community Foundation of Pennsylvania (formerly the Williamsport-Lycoming Foundation), and currently hosts the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra and public radio station WVYA-FM.

William J. Martin, Penn College senior vice president and chairman of the Community Arts Center board of directors, who oversees operations at the theater, said it is a successful business operation.

“With substantial support from the college and help along the way from the First Community Foundation and a number of patrons, friends and businesses, the Arts Center has proven itself a viable, sustainable business entity. It has done so without the infusion of local tax dollars that are typically necessary to underwrite venues such as these,” Martin said.

Joining Gilmour and Martin in making the announcement of the grant award was former state Rep. Brett O. Feese, who secured the funding while still in office. The former representative said he was proud to represent the interests of the community in requesting the funding.

“Communities benefit when historic facilities are transformed and maintained for modern use,” he said. “This is an exceptional example of a community pulling its resources to save a local landmark and keep it useful and vibrant. I think it is the kind of project that the state can support with great enthusiasm.”

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