An arts center for Gilbert — temporarily - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

An arts center for Gilbert — temporarily

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Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2005 6:12 am | Updated: 8:51 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It could be a new incarnation or just one last hurrah. An aging building in downtown Gilbert has become the town’s community fine arts center — at least temporarily.

The Gilbert Fine Arts Association reached an agreement with the town this summer to use the building for six months. A new coat of paint, 200 seats, curtains and a professional lighting and sound system have turned the graffiti-plagued building into a community theater.

The association has had its eye on the building for more than two years after its previous tenant, the Gilbert Boys and Girls Club, moved to new facilities, leaving the space at 25 W. Washington Ave. vacant, said executive director Benjamin Freedman. The association is now using the building to produce TheaterFest 2005, a series of musicals. And it hopes to stay awhile.

"Our goal is that if a new buyer cannot be found, we’ll be able to extend our deal with the town," Freedman said.

Gilbert is looking for a new buyer or tenant for the property and is seeking proposals from developers with ideas for retail, office space or community uses. The vacant building has become something of an albatross for the town as it sits near a crucial redevelopment district. Proposals for its use or use of the land it sits on are due Oct. 14, said Greg Tilque, economic development director.

Though some Town Council members have said they didn’t care if the building was torn down, Tilque said the town is also open to ideas on reuse and renovation.

As the building awaits its fate, the Gilbert Fine Arts Association plans to fill its walls with the sounds of "Little Shop of Horrors" and "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown." But first on stage is "We the People: A Musical Comedy of Constitutional Proportions," which accompanies Gilbert’s Constitution Week events.

The association also has an ultimate goal for the old building, Freedman said.

"We’d like to (use) it as a five-year temporary space while funds are being raised and political capital is being earned to build a real arts center," he said. "Gilbert looks a little strange in that we’re one of the fastest-growing communities in the country, and we don’t have an arts center."

’We the People’

The Gilbert Fine Arts Association is planning a series of musicals. Its first production is "We the People: A Musical Comedy of Constitutional Proportions."

The show follows six Town Council members trying to develop a play about the Constitution. It runs Sept. 14-17 and 22-24 at the temporary fine arts center at 25 W. Washington Ave. Tickets are on sale now at www.gfaa.org or by calling (480) 505-6205. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children and seniors.

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