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New Hernando group to develop multipurpose cultural center

BROOKSVILLE — Board members of the newly formed Cultural Arts and Entertainment Center formally unveiled their plans Thursday evening to develop a multipurpose venue that would house several local art, music and cultural organizations.

Speaking before a modest group made up primarily of Hernando County arts group members at the Quarry Enrichment Center, board members offered few specifics about the ambitious effort, but insisted that there was no reason it couldn't work.

For now, the project revolves around acquiring a building capable of housing a 600-seat theater, offices and classroom spaces for arts groups, and an art galley.

The organization's chairman, Rick Foti, cautioned that the group is in the early stages of its effort.

"We've got a long, long way to go," said Foti, who also serves as president of the Hernando Symphony Orchestra. "But we have to start someplace, and that's why we're here."

Although other sites are being considered, the group's main focus is the purchase of the defunct Hernando Suzuki auto dealership on Cortez Boulevard near the Suncoast Parkway, a 6,000-square-foot building that would provide ample under-roof space for its operations.

The final cost of the building and the necessary improvements is still unknown, vice chairwoman Myndee Washington said. But based on rough estimates, the group would have to raise at least $2 million to complete the project.

"It's not an outrageous price," she told the audience. "But if it doesn't work, we'll figure something else out."

Under the group's plan, the purchase of the building and capital improvements would be paid for with grants and funding by private donors willing to buy naming rights to various rooms inside the building.

Washington said the operation could recoup the estimated $9,100 in monthly operating expenses by renting space for dance recitals, conferences, theater events and summer camps, among other things.

Last month, the group got a financial boost when county commissioners voted to transfer $30,000 from a capital funds account belonging to the Hernando County Fine Arts Council that was once part of a $100,000 donation from the county that was earmarked for the council's ill-fated Nimmagadda Cultural Center project.

The fledgling group has received some positive community support as well. Longtime Spring Hill resident Nick Morana donated $500 to help the effort get off the ground.

"The community has needed something like this for a long time," Morana said. "I think that once it's up and going, people will be proud to support it."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

New Hernando group to develop multipurpose cultural center 09/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 7:56pm]
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