Courtesy of Paul Halajian Architects
This architect’s rendering is one of three concepts discussed Friday at a meeting of the Director’s Circle, a committee working on ideas for the planned Madera Center for the Arts. This layout includes two theaters, a banquet hall, rehearsal rooms, an art gallery and administrative offices. It would front the northwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and G Street, across the street from the Madera County Library.
About a dozen Maderans met Friday afternoon with architects from Paul N. Halajian, AIA, of Clovis to discuss concepts for the planned Madera Arts Center, and the Maderans were impressed by how far the plans had come since January, when a public discussion, or charette, was held at Madera South High School to obtain people’s ideas for what they wanted the arts center to accomplish for the city.
The Friday presentation was based on a program developed after several discussions with locals who told the architects what they wanted and why, and how they thought it should fit into the property now occupied by the building that once housed the county courts and administration offices. That property is on the northwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and North G Street, across Yosemite from Memorial Courthouse Park, and across North G Street from the Madera County Library buildings. To the north of the property is the county parking structure that would play a key roll in providing parking when events were held in the Arts Center.
A moderately detailed sketch of the floor plan of the proposed building was displayed on twin overhead projectors during the meeting.
One concept proposed a grand plaza in the center of the building facing Yosemite, with a lobby and the theater right in the middle of the building. On the east side would be a banquet facility and on the west side would be classrooms and art and media studios.
The second concept would have two theaters, event facilities, and a banquet fall.
This scheme would turn the lobby into an art gallery, a “place you could sort of meander through, and see art as you went along,” Halajian told his audience. “The driving force behind this idea was how a facility like this can be done in a phased manner with minimal interruption.”
The third scheme proposed a grand lobby that would allow people to see all the way through the building, through “a very glassy, transparent lobby” facing courtyards.
“Art could be displayed throughout the lobby,” Halajian said. “The two theaters would be designed to handle professional productions as well as those of school and amateur theater groups and music performances — as many as 90 musicians on stage at any one time.
One of the theaters would seat 500, while a second would seat 150.
Included would be a banquet facility that could seat 200 and possibly a cafe that would be open every day.
A dance studio, art studios and classrooms would be arrayed on the west side of the building.
Offices for the gallery and the Madera County Arts Council also would be included.
Acting school Superintendent Todd Lile said such a facility could bring money into the city by being an ideal venue for professional conferences.
“This would be an ideal place for professional conferences,” said Lile. “It would be a whole other niche that is needed in the San Joaquin Valley outside of Fresno.
A second public planning session for the Center for the Arts will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at Madera South High School Library at Stadium Road and Pecan Avenue.
After that planning session, Halajian said, it could be as soon as three or four months before detailed elevation sketches are available for further public inspection.
This is a rare opportunity for the city to move forward with a project that would not only contribute to the quality of life through enhancing the arts, but also could contribute a positive economic inflow that over the years could bring tens of thousands of people to town and provide Madera with a new infusion of hope and energy.
The Madera County Arts Council, armed with a multimillion-dollar contribution from the estate of Maderans Franklin and Elaine Secara, has stepped up to get the process started, as have the governments of Madera and Madera County and the Madera Unified School District.
But many others will have to step up to make the idea work.
This can be the fulfillment of dreams for Maderans who have hoped for years that their city could have something that would make them truly proud, and that would bring people here to visit and to live.