At its August meeting, the Macon County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to allocate $60,000 to the renovation and expansion of the Highlands Performing Arts Center (PAC). The allocation will be a two-year commitment from the county for the project with $30,000 allocated each year in the budget under economic development.
Appearing before the board, Cindy Trevathan, PAC Board of Directors member, made a presentation to commissioners soliciting their support for the project. The commissioners have been very supportive to several community centers throughout the county and have been instrumental as well as financially supportive in helping the larger Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center project get established.
In keeping in line with what the county has done for other community centers and projects, the board agreed to show its support to the Highlands PAC project. The board also recognized the significant impact the performing arts in Highlands has contributed to the economy.
“I recommend we support the project and show our interest by allocating $30,000 a year for two years; this is in line with what we have done with Cowee School and other community centers throughout the county,” said Vice-Chairman Ronnie Beale in his motion to the board. “The performing arts in Highlands has had a significant impact on the economy of the town and county.”
Trevathan told the board that 100 private donors have raised $10 million for the original project which includes renovating and expanding the existing PAC. She said an additional two to three million dollars is needed to finish the project but said the project was made possible with an anonymous donation of $5 million dollars.
Construction is underway of the expansion of the PAC to implement a new expanded facility for the performing arts community. The new facility will add an additional 350 seats to the existing 250 seat chamber hall as well as an 85-seat black box for movies and more intimate events. The project will also include the renovations to the existing hall and expansion of the lobby to improve access, visibility and comfort.
The new facility will bring all performing arts together under one roof, a vision of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor several years ago. The facility will be home to the Highlands Community Players, Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, Bel Canto, the Highlands Playhouse, youth theaters and live streaming of the New York Metropolitan Opera and the National Theatre of London.
“Our mission is to provide a facility that provides world class entertainment at a low cost for all the performing arts in Highlands.” said Trevathan.
To meet this goal, the PAC coordinates concerts and fund-raising drives to help offset the operating cost of the facility and keep rents low for the non-profit resident art groups. The expanded facility will provide greater opportunities for community events including conferences, wedding receptions and meetings.
With the expanded facility, operating cost are expected to increase but more revenue from ticket sales will be generated.
The PAC strongly encourages maintaining the traditions and customs of the local area, hosting bluegrass bands and story tellers. Plans are underway to use the expanded facility for an annual Appalachian festival to further celebrate the culture of the area as demonstrated in music, dance and movies.
Arts North Carolina estimates about $2 billion is spent on performing arts in North Carolina; of that 44 percent goes to the organization and $ 1.2 billion goes to surrounding businesses such as restaurants, hotels and shops.
By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper