ST. HELENA — Thanks to the new St. Helena Performing Arts Center, the era when local students had to perform in a glorified Quonset hut are officially gone.
The $14.5 million venue, which had already been used for student and employee gatherings and one theatrical production, was the site of an official grand opening and ribbon cutting on Tuesday.
With more than 100 people in attendance, longtime choral director Craig Bond talked about putting on shows in the old auditorium, an “awful post-World War II building” that was finally condemned in 2011.
The nonprofit St. Helena Performing Arts Center formed in 1998 to explore the construction of a new auditorium, and voters approved a bond in 2012 that provided the funding.
The finishing touches are still being put on the interior, which still lacks curtains and a projector, but the rest of the systems are fully functional.
Mayor Alan Galbraith recalled performances he’d attended with his daughter, and said the Performing Arts Center (PAC) will produce many great memories for years to come.
Galbraith, Bond, Superintendent Marylou Wilson, and school board President Cindy Smith each thanked the community for supporting the construction of the PAC, which Wilson said “will be used on a regular basis.”
After the ribbon cutting, the crowd entered the building and sat in seats that were salvaged from the old auditorium and reupholstered and restored, which saved a lot of money, officials said. The space has 353 seats, and Bond said it could accommodate as many as 380 if need be.
The crowd was treated to performances by the St. Helena High School Jazz Band and choir — both directed by Alba Gonzalez-Arredondo — and the drama department.
Drama teacher Patti Coyle said her students, who recently performed “You Can’t Take It With You,” were starting rehearsals on Wednesday for “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which will be their spring musical in March.
“This story never ends, and thanks to you there will be many more beautiful performances, and many more students will be inspired,” Coyle said. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.”