Wednesday, November 26, 2014
C. J. Huff: Performing arts plan will improve the quality of life for our city
Joplin Schools Board of Education approved a joint exploration of ways Joplin Schools and Joplin's Connect2Culture organization could work together to enhance the cultural offerings at the Performing Arts Center currently under construction at Joplin High School. The approval came during the board's regularly scheduled meeting on November 25, 2014.
Connect2Culture presented preliminary plans to the board on how the collaboration could proceed pending additional research and fundraising. The preliminary plans call for an approximately 23,000 square-foot addition to the existing JHS Performing Arts Center and upgrades to the current audio-visual system planned for the facility. The upgrades and addition would be funded entirely by private dollars secured by Connect2Culture through donations, grants, and other private funding sources.
The addition and system upgrades would help meet the needs of touring shows and educational programming, enabling the performing arts center to host a variety of performances beyond high school programs including classic rock, jazz, dance troupes, opera, national theatrical touring productions, and smaller Broadway productions. Connect2Culture also would fund and manage the scheduling for these productions. This proposed addition would not change the construction timeline for the current facility, which is scheduled to open to students and staff in March 2015.
"When we began planning for the new high school, our vision was to find ways to work with businesses and community organizations to increase engagement in our schools," said Joplin Schools Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff. "This partnership with Connect2Culture fits that vision. It would allow us to share this beautiful, functional new space with the Joplin community and improve the quality of life for our city. We are also excited by the opportunities that it would give students throughout our district. We look forward to working together to develop a plan that meets the needs of both organizations."
Connect2Culture, a not-for-profit arts organization, was founded in 2009 in Joplin to enhance community through the development of cultural resources including arts, history, nature, and education. Connect2Culture had been exploring plans for a performing arts center in Joplin since 2010 when it conducted an initial planning study by nationally recognized arts consultants The North Group. Conversations regarding a partnership with Joplin Schools began in earnest in April 2014.
"We believe we can develop a plan and partnership that benefits students, school staff, parents, and patrons and supports growth and development in our community," said Clifford Wert, co-vice president and treasurer of the Connect2Culture board of directors. "We have researched other communities that have similar partnerships and will use these communities as models as we move forward with this exploration."
The renderings and plans that were shared with the board of the potential addition to the existing Performing Arts Center at the high school were fully funded through a grant from the Community Foundation Southwest Missouri-Joplin Recovery Fund. The next step for both organizations is to set additional meetings to review research and partnership agreements and to set a timeline for the potential joint project. Once a final plan has been developed, it will go before the Joplin Schools Board of Education and the Connect2Culture Board of Directors for final approval.
"We are thankful to Joplin Schools Board of Education for supporting this first step in the process," Wert said. "We have much work ahead, but we are excited to see where this partnership goes and what it could mean for the continued development of a vibrant cultural Joplin community."