Live Arts unveils new theater

After years of planning, two of downtown’s best-known arts organizations announced their plans to turn a parking lot into a mammoth new arts center on Water Street.

Thane Kerner, chairman of the project’s fundraising arm, called “Wingspan,” said that since 1998, the group has privately raised $2.9 million of the $3.7 million projected cost of City Center for Contemporary Arts, or CCCA.

The 27,000 square-foot building will house Second Street Gallery, the Live Arts theater group, and Light House, a relatively new filmmaking-for-teens organization.

And now, all three non-profits are looking to the public to come up with another 800K in the next 30 to 60 days so groundbreaking can begin. Unlike, say, the Paramount Theater, which has gained over $500,000 in city commitments toward its March 1 groundbreaking, the CCCA folks aren’t asking for government largesse.

The project got off the ground a few years ago when D and R Development bought the lot and donated it to Wingspan.

City councilors Maurice Cox, David Toscano, and Mayor Blake Caravati were among the 50 or so gathered in the soon-to-disappear parking lot. The Bauhaus-inspired structure will be four stories tall, and will include a public garden on the roof.

Architect Jeff Bushman, whose firm, Bushman Dreyfus, designed the building, says the exterior will be ground-face concrete block and titanium alloy sheet metal. According to Bushman, the design has been approved by the City, and Second and Water Streets will remain accessible during construction.

For Live Arts regulars, the new theater won’t be that different in scale from the old 45-by-45-foot theater. Artistic director John Gibson says the footprint of the main theater space is about the same as its current space on Market Street, but with greater capacity, thanks to 30-foot ceilings. Currently Gibson’s office is also Live Arts’ LAB space that’s used by 27 young people who, he jokes, sit “on our desks and leave lipstick stains on our computers.” The new facility will offer separate lab and office spaces.

Second Street Gallery, one of the oldest galleries in town, will triple its size while remaining on Second Street (albeit a different Second Street), says director Leah Stoddard. Plans call for a 45-foot gallery that will be visible from Water Street, plus proper lighting, climate control, storage, and office space.

  Live Arts and Second Street had already teamed up on the new building, and were looking for a young arts group to take under their wing, said Shannon Worrell, director of Light House. Her two-year-old organization, which encourages teens to make short films and tell personal stories, fit the bill.

In his only Charlottesville area appearance this year, folk-singer John McCutcheon will perform a benefit concert March 8. And if the City Center for Contemporary Arts raises enough of the remaining cash it needs to break ground, Kerner promises it will change Charlottesville’s cultural and physical landscape.



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