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City council hears about performing arts center


The Goldendale City Council met last night and covered a lot of ground, but the meeting was dominated by a Powerpoint-on-steroids presentation from Goldendale Sentinel publisher Lou Marzeles about a proposed performing arts center in Goldendale.

The center, a 75,000-square-foot complex, is to be located on 40 acres immediately off Highway 97. It will contain three theaters, a conference center, and a catering kitchen capable of staging dinner for up to 1,000 people.

It will be home to a number of performance types—films, theater presentations, dance, lectures, concerts and more. “Basically, anything that’s on a stage behind a curtain,” Marzeles said, “including film.” The center, being called the Goldendale Performing Arts Center (GPAC), will also accommoate conferences, workshops, and programs for continuing education credits for educators.

To make this happen, he and partner Leslie Geatches have formed Artnova, a new type of corporation called a social purpose corporation only authorized in Washington in 2012. Basically, he said, it was a for-profit corporation that puts social purposes ahead of earning profits. Stockholders can’t pressure the officers for profits, but can pressure them for performance of the social goals.

Marzeles said the Artnova mission was, “Using established and new creative endeavors in the performing arts to demonstrate the significance of integrity, and how to become ‘literate’ in integrity by proactive evaluation of the arts.”

He emphasized that the focus on integrity meant that performances would not just be family friendly but go beyond that to explore the underlying basis of integrity.

“The common saying is ‘art imitates life.’ I don’t think so,” he said. “Rather, life imitates art. You look at the influence of the arts, particularly in the last 100 years. Before 100 years ago, if you wanted to hear some music, somebody had to play it or you had to play it. Now it’s everywhere. And the trouble with normal is, it always gets worse. It has a gravitational pull to the lowest common denominator. It actually influences the way people live. That’s why the arts are so important. That’s why we have this organization, and that is why we are doing the Goldendale Performing Arts Center.”

To those who would say Goldendale is too remote to draw the crowds necessary to support such a center, Marzeles cited the example of Williamstown, Mass., a town of 7,000 people that draws huge throngs of tourists each year to its theater festival. He pointed out it is even more remote than Goldendale, being two hours away from the nearest big city over a narrow two-lane road. By comparison, 6,500 vehicles per day go by the proposed site on Highway 97.

It’s a big undertaking; Marzeles said the company plans to sell 200,000 shares at $125 each for a $25 million initial capitalization. He hopes to break ground this fall.

In other actions last night, the Goldendale City Council passed updates to ordinances involving dangerous dogs and the city leash law, approved the annual update to the city’s six-year street maintenance plan and authorized purchase of 1,000 feet of water main that’s currently leaking 200 gallons a minute.


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