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Byrnes Performing Arts Center celebrates 10-year anniversary

 

Christopher Andersson

Arlington High School's jazz band "On Hold" performs during the 10-Year Anniversary Celebration for the Byrnes Performing Arts Center on June 3.

Ten years after the Byrnes Performing Arts Center opened its doors, the Arlington School District invited community members to the center for an anniversary celebration.

Performances from Arlington High School's "On Hold" jazz band and the drama department, and from Seattle band "The Coats" were provided during the evening celebration on which took place on June 3.

The evening was meant to thank all the community donors and others who helped to fund the performing arts center, which provides an expansive stage for students and others.

"For the students and the community, what a state of the art place we have for them to perform, to show their talents, to be creative, not just the ones who are performing, but the behind the stage students with the set and lighting," said Arlington School District Superintendent Chrys Sweeting.

Community member Dave Duskin said he recalls taking part in the barber shop quartet and plays at the old Arlington High School with his twin brother Dale Duskin.

"Our involvement in the performing arts was an important part of preparing ourselves for our careers," he said.

Former Arlington School District Superintendent Linda Byrnes said that ever since she came to the district in the '90s she had been impressed with the school's performing arts.

"This community has a long history of doing great performances, but they didn't have a proper venue," she said.

"I would go to the performances and say 'wow, these kids are amazing. What would they do if they had the space they needed?'"

The arts center initiative began when Arlington voters passed their last major school bond.

"That bond took five attempts, we finally passed it on the fifth attempt, but it's easy to forget there was actually two bonds on the ballot that year," said Jeff Huleatt, president of the Arlington School Board.

The other bond would have funded the arts center, but failed to pass.

"It was this missing piece, and there is a tremendous strength in this community with all the music, the bands and the drama programs," said Byrnes.

Byrnes and the school board decided to attempt to fund the project through community donations, although she admits she was initially skeptical due to the millions that would need to be raised.

"That's a huge goal to raise that kind of money when you're a small town," she said.

The school board had some funds from timberland that had been gifted to them that could be spent on capital projects, and they used those funds to build the outside shell for the center.

"They [the school board] knew it would never be cheaper than when the construction was already on site," said Byrnes.

With a shell complete, they continued funding with donations from local businesses and individuals, grants and $500,000 from the city of Arlington.

Christopher Andersson

Arlington community members Dave Duskin, left, and David Boulton talk about the importance of performing arts during the 10-Year Anniversary Celebration for the Byrnes Performing Arts Center on June 3.

"We could see the vision that it had a lot of potential to help the community and bring people into Arlington to shop and stay overnight, and just to have a wonderful facility that could be used by the community and the school," said City Council member Marilyn Oertle.

With those funds the center was able to open in 2007 and named after Linda Byrnes, which she learned only on the opening night for the center.

Since then the Byrnes Performing Arts Center has hosted 80 middle school and high school concerts, 20 high school plays or musicals and numerous professional musical acts.

Byrnes recalls seeing 'Peter Pan' at the center shortly after it opened.

"And now the students could fly, they had the equipment and pieces, and this theater allowed them to fly and I think that's symbolic as well as being literal in that play," she said.

 

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