NEK multimillion-dollar performing arts center nears completion - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

NEK multimillion-dollar performing arts center nears completion

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A multimillion-dollar performing arts center is nearing completion in the Northeast Kingdom. Workers are puttng the final touches on the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro. The mission of this $14 million center is ambitious. They want to offer a rich variety of theater dance, music, film and other events year-round.

"It's an opportunity to share the arts with people," said Valdine Hall, Highland Center for the Arts. 

Hall, the center's new manager, took us on a tour of the 13,000-square-foot center.

"From what I hear from people in the business, this is like one of the nicer ones they've been to because most catwalks are really low and so they spend their time crawling around," said Hall. 

From the catwalks to the 225-seat hall, it's designed to look like Shakespeare's Globe Theatre which is fully equipped for a small concert or a Broadway play.

"We're hoping that everyone feels welcome and that everyone can come, everyone can attend events, which is part of the reason for wanting to offer a variety of programming," said Hall. 

There is a separate performance space for dance and a regular film series. There's also an art gallery and full-service cafe. While the 770 residents of Greensboro could hardly support the center alone, summer visitors to nearby Caspian Lake triple the population. Like the Field of Dreams, supporters hope to make it a cultural destination.

"We feel there's this kind of thirst for theater here in the Northeast Kingdom," said Hall. 

It was all paid for by Andrew Brown, a financier and part-time resident who spent his childhood summers here. Brown initially tried to keep the gift anonymous and continues to avoid the limelight.

The center has not been without its controversy. Some area residents we spoke to say it just doesn't fit in with the rural area. Hall disagrees. And she says the center will add to the economic renaissance in the area from beer brewing to local food manufacturing. They plan to hold a series of listening workshops in June to gather input from the community.

"If you have a particular interest you would like to see happen, if you have a show that you would like to do, any of those ideas," said Hall.

The center is partnering with Northern Stage of White River Junction for its first productions.

The center's grand opening is set for the first weekend in June.

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