People have been thinking about how to meet Vashon’s obvious and growing need for a better performing arts space for a very long time.
In 1994 The Collins Group, Inc. (TCG) was hired by the Vashon Parks Department Arts Advisory Committee to conduct a study to assess the needs of the performing arts community on Vashon Island. The scope of work was as follows:
- Inventory of existing performance, rehearsal, and production spaces on Vashon
- Current performance and rehearsal needs of performing artists Community perceptions/needs
- Implementation plan on existing space and further recommendations on space needs
The full text of the report follows. It’s interesting to note the following.
The downtown community, including by the Chamber of Commerce, produced a plan for the development of downtown that included a community center. This center might house a full production theater, meeting rooms, offices for public service organizations and perhaps space for a teen center and a senior center. It is an ambitious plan that, based on other communities’ experiences, would cost at least $5 million to $10 million to construct.
While that project didn’t go forward, what became know as the Katherine L. White Hall did. That $10mm 1994 estimate would be equal about $16 mm by the time we started construction on the Kay, not far off the estimated construction costs when we were trying to get started. Unfortunately the construction costs ballooned to over $20 million by the time we started but that is another story,
It’s also interesting to note the assessment of the Blue Heron:
Performance space is “cozy” but is extremely limited. The “Blue Heron is too small for what they want to do.” While Vashon is fortunate to have the Blue Heron, there is little opportunity for program growth. It cannot serve as the primary performance space for the island.
In the end, The Collins Group recommended against building a new community center. Instead, they recommended better leveraging existing spaces driven by the conclusion that there wasn’t enough demand for all the performing arts programming already on offer.
Years later some islanders came to another conclusion. We plan to tell that story in the near future.
The following was scanned from the original documents. While we’ve read it closely it’s possible that the software didn’t perform perfectly so apologies if you find something that seems nonsensical. We have eliminated the the appendices though you can see them if you would like to download a scan of the document.
A SHARED VISION”
Facility Needs Assessment for
the Vashon Arts Advisory Committee
July 25, 1994
Conducted by The Collins Group, Inc.
101 Stewart Street, Suite 840
Seattle, Washington 98101
The Collins Group, Inc. (TCG) was hired by the Vashon Parks Department Arts Advisory Committee to conduct a study to assess the needs of the performing arts community on Vashon Island. The scope of work was as follows:
Inventory of existing performance, rehearsal, and production spaces on Vashon
Current performance and rehearsal needs of performing artists Community perceptions/needs
Implementation plan on existing space and further recommendations on space needs
During the course of this study, the scope of work became more streamlined as an agreement between the Vashon School District and the Vashon Parks Department, informally titled Vashon Commons, was revealed. This document (included in the appendix) provides a framework for cooperation between the two entities in the areas of recreation and community oriented facilities. More specifically, “the Park District, serving as a community recreation agent, shall have available the School District’s facilities when not scheduled for use or maintenance by the School District” (page 3, Vashon Island School District No. 402 – Resolution No. 337). These facilities include the high school theater and school athletic fields. Scheduling of all facilities will be actively managed by the Parks Department.
The implementation of Vashon Commons lays the groundwork for this report, “A Shared Vision”. The Collins Group feels Vashon Commons provides Vashon residents with a tremendous opportunity to work together and maximize existing school district spaces and other community facilities for the benefit of the island’s performing arts community.
A. Every Community Wants a Performing Arts Center
A common theme voiced by smaller communities throughout the region is “it seems everyone has a performing arts center except us”. The Collins Group has heard this on numerous occasions when we have worked on similar projects and that same thought has been expressed on Vashon. A number of questions need to be asked and answered before a community can really evaluate whether they should undertake the creation of a new performing arts center. Some of these questions include:
- What exactly is a performing arts center?
- What does it do?
- Who benefits from it?
- Who pays for its construction?
- Who pays for its operation?
The Collins Group has found that answering these questions forces a community to determine what exactly its needs are and who the beneficiaries will be. Performing arts activities on Vashon include the following:
amateur performances and productions professional performances and productions (local and touring) educational events for all ages, school children and adults skills training for all ages
recreation, for those on stage and behind the scenes those who attend performances for a variety of reasons
These activities are occurring now in a variety of venues on the island. It is interesting to see the diversity of programming presented in often, less than perfect venues. It is only natural that the many talented island performers and producers want better performance space to showcase their talents and to expand these audiences.
In the course of this study, Collins Group members, Sally Brunette and Dick Collins, met with more than 25 people to discuss the performing arts on Vashon and the needs of local performing artists. We were very impressed with the candor and interest expressed during this interview process and would like to thank all participants for taking the time to share their thoughts and visions. Besides the one-on-one and group interactions, Collins Group members visited many of the island’s performing arts venues including the Blue Heron, the high school theater and the movie theater. We looked at floor plans and reviewed past correspondence concerning these and other sites.
What follows is an assessment and evaluation of the performing arts on Vashon and recommendations to improve the current situation.
A. Arts Organizations
Collins Group members met with a number of individuals affiliated with island performing arts groups and organizations, including representatives from Drama Dock, UMO, Vashon Allied Arts, the high school drama department and other groups. Representatives were happy to discuss their current programming and how existing spaces either help or hinder that programming. Interviewees gave themselves and others high marks for the quality of programming occurring in less than ideal conditions. As several interviewees said, there’s “lots of talent on the island.” It appears that the arts are alive and well on Vashon but every organization has difficulties with lack of facilities for production, performances and expansion of audiences.
The Collins Group surveyed the existing and potential performance and preparation facilities on the island to get a comprehensive picture of what the benefits and drawbacks were for each of these facilities. All performing arts groups would like a space of their own. The needs presented by Vashon groups are similar to those stated in other communities, large and small, that The Collins Group has studied in the past.
The needs identified by Vashon performing groups can be summarized as follows:
Better performance space – Better floor for dance, better sound and light equipment, more flexible stage set-up is needed, and proper backstage areas (with toilets and shower).
Rehearsal space – There is almost no consistently available rehearsal space on the island right now. One interviewee expressed a universal viewpoint. “There is no place to rehearse — we have to move from place to place. It is exhausting.” Extensive time and energy is wasted in having to reset rehearsals in a variety of totally different spaces during preparation for a show.
Workshop space – There is almost no workshop space for producing groups. Even Vashon High School drama department, which has the best performance space on island, has inadequate space to construct shows, store construction materials and install power tools.
Costume shop and storage – Lacking, in all cases, on Vashon. Costumes are currently stored everywhere — in plastic sacks, on the floor, in the basement.
Storage for sets, materials and stage props – There are no facilities currently available. There was some space at the Nike site, but it is no longer available for this use.
1. Survey of Existing Spaces
- 99 seat performance space
- Very limited stage and back stage space facilities
- Excellent upstairs rehearsal/training space, particularly for dance
- (Note: no handicapped access to upstairs)
- Offers “multiplicity of arts” experience with its visual arts gallery adjacent to performing space
Performance space is “cozy” but is extremely limited. The “Blue Heron is too small for what they want to do.” While Vashon is fortunate to have the Blue Heron, there is little opportunity for program growth. It cannot serve as the primary performance space for the island.
HIGH SCHOOL THEATER AND DRAMA DEPARTMENT
- 242 to 280 seat theater, depending on configuration
- Very good space enhanced by the recent installation of suitable theater seats
- Space restricted by lack of adequate lighting, sound and other technical support equipment
- No backstage restrooms
- Limited space for shop, storage and rehearsal
The high school theater has the potential of becoming an excellent venue for many Vashon performing arts activities. With a minimum of work and expense it could be a performing arts center for Vashon into the next century
VASHON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
The school building is currently “in limbo” due to structural problems. No decision has been made at the time of this assessment as to the possible use of the building. The main building has many spaces that could be used for support spaces without involving audiences or other large numbers of people. The outside gym is discussed in the next section.
If the main building is approved for limited occupancy it is feasible to develop costume storage, prop storage and perhaps even stage sets storage. A costume shop could possibly be developed where groups could share workshop space for the construction of show costumes. Until there is some decision as to the availability of this facility for community use it is difficult to make any more precise evaluation.
VASHON ELEMENTARY – OUTSIDE GYM
- Not a performance space (except for UMO)
- “Sprung” floor excellent for dance or movement groups There are no restrooms in building
- With high ceiling it is difficult to heat for low physical activity (sports/games may have less of a problem with heating)
- Used for roller skating activities on regular basis
The building is used by multiple groups from skating and basketball to dance/movement training to drum and dance classes. It is reported that the fine sprung wood floor has rotten supports which need attention. The building is a good resource for the community and should be made secure and even more usable.
OBER PARK BUILDING
Ober Park consists of a building, a shallow amphitheater and play areas. The Ober Park building is a very pleasant facility currently owned and operated by King County. It does not appear to be as well used as it could be. The Vashon Parks District is trying to reach an agreement with the County to transfer management of the facility to the district. The building has a couple of major spaces that can be used for meetings, workshops, rehearsals and other community activities.
It appears that the Ober Park building will be greatly desired by several groups if it is made available. A committee has been formed to determine its most effective use. If Ober does not get absorbed by a single group it could be included as a performing arts resource, perhaps on a use-by-use basis. If Ober could be dedicated to the arts/recreation it could be well used. The Ober building is not adequate as a performance theater. However, it could be used for new play “readings”, auditions, rehearsals, dance/movement workshops, classes, visual arts studios and many other educational and program preparation activities.
The small amphitheater in Ober Park has limited use due to its proximity to a busy roadway. It has been used for some performances and should be considered for future specialized programming. Its use would be greatly enhanced if the Ober building is readily available as a support area.
- Approximately 400 seat movie theater
- Stage dimensions – 11″ x 21″
- Space has been used for musical performances; a trailer serving as a dressing room was parked outside for the performers
- Space not suitable for theater performances – no backstage, dressing area, or place for sets
The movie theater is the largest performance space in town but has limited flexibility due to space configuration. It is appropriate for some musical performances and “one-man” shows with no set changes but not for ensemble productions. The theater will continue to fill a niche in Vashon programming for shows needing 400 seat capacity but does not hold substantial potential for the performing arts.
Burton’s main classroom areas will primarily be restructured for housing units. There are several other spaces, including two gym areas that do not appear to have been reserved for any specific purpose.
There are spaces at Burton that could be used in the same manner as the spaces at Vashon Elementary for workshops and storage but most of the building is being converted to affordable housing. Vashon Elementary would seem to be a better choice for this function.
This former missile site is now a park. It has been suggested as a place for major outdoor performing arts presentations, i.e. Shakespeare Festival (similar to Ashland, OR), a smaller version of The Gorge at George music attraction, or a major performing arts facility for the island.
There does not appear to be any great enthusiasm for such massive programming at Paradise Ridge and the current users of the Park do not want to see any changes. This is a long range question and does not impact this study.
NEW ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS
The new schools, working under the Vashon Commons agreement, offer many fine spaces for meetings, classes, and related activities. The performance spaces, although useful for school performances, are restrictive for presentations requiring a stage setting with light/sound control, sets and backstage spaces.
These spaces are most useful for school activities or for community shows with limited logistical and equipment needs. There is a large workshop included in the new school but it does not seem practical for use as a theater production shop. The theater users would need to return the shop to school condition after each use. The energy and time expended in setting up and cleaning up for each use would soon become unacceptable.
The following list of facilities will continue to fill performance needs for some island groups even after there are improved spaces offered by the School and Park districts. Most are private organizations and there is no need to consider changes to these facilities.
- South End Grange
- Land Trust
C. A Downtown Community Center
The downtown community, including by the Chamber of Commerce, has produced a plan for the development of downtown that includes a community center. This center might house a full production theater, meeting rooms, offices for public service organizations and perhaps space for a teen center and a senior center. It is an ambitious plan that, based on other communities’ experiences, would cost at least $5 million to $10 million to construct. The manner of operation and management of such a facility has not been determined by the community and was not elaborated on in the Chamber study. Supporters of a community center recognize the lengthy time frame associated with the planning, funding and construction of such a facility. This type of center needs a great deal of in- depth study as to need, types of users, development leadership, building and operating costs, and sources of funding. It would not likely come into existence until after the turn of the century.
D. Market for Programs and Facilities
Most see the market for performances on the island as coming from the island itself. A small minority think a major performance center would draw visitors to the island similar to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR. However, with transportation and lodging limited, Vashon does not currently have the capability to host large numbers of off-islanders at any given time.
Too Much Activity?
The performing arts calendar on Vashon is very full. Interviewees, performers and audience members alike, expressed concern that the market is “saturated” and that the competition is hurting presenters. One interviewee commented that we are “not packing them in now.” Another joked, “whenever you have an opening, Drama Dock will also have an opening”. It appears that a lack of communication among performing groups is more likely the problem than market saturation.
A number of interviews suggested a master calendar of some sort identifying the many scheduled performances as a way to reduce the conflict/overlap between, or among, performances. Right now there is no easy way to predict the upcoming performing arts schedule.
E. Vashon Commons
The Vashon Commons concept became a reality during the course of this study. The ready acceptance of the Vashon Commons plan by performing arts groups interviewed presents an opportunity for more creative solutions to meet local performing arts needs. The Commons provides an operating structure that can allow performing groups to work together more effectively. Additionally, facilities for the entire community are now possible at a remarkably low cost. This is possible only because of the willingness of School District personnel to collaborate in making their facilities available for use by community groups and the Park District’s willingness to take scheduling responsibilities.
A. Need for Facilities
After talking with performers and audience members, and touring the existing performing arts spaces, it is clear to us that there is a need to improve performing arts facilities on the island with special emphasis on the “behind the scenes” spaces such as: rehearsal space, workshop space, and storage space for sets and costumes. It appears that the need for new performance space is not as great as initially assumed. When specific needs were identified, the need for a new, large performing arts center, at this time, could not be justified. Most agreed that current shows are seldom sold out. The Collins Group thinks that better management of existing performance spaces, plus creation of rehearsal, storage and workshop space, would result in greater satisfaction for performers and audiences alike.
B. Shared Space
The Vashon Commons represent a tremendous opportunity for the island to share performance space in a manner beneficial to the entire island community. Since this agreement has just been signed and is in the process of being implemented, we do not have a way to evaluate its impact at this time. Conversations with the school district, the park district, and the producing companies have left us with a very favorable impression that Vashon Commons can work and we are hopeful that the community will reap benefits in the near future.
C. The Impact of Vashon Commons
The potential impact of Vashon Commons is extraordinary. By opening up the high school theater to local performing arts groups, possibly the best venue on the island for live performances, a much wider audience will be able to see local productions. There are still shortcomings associated with the high school theater – lack of adequate technical support equipment and limited shop, storage and rehearsal space but The Collins Groups feels these inadequacies can be overcome, turning this space into a very suitable performing arts space at minimal cost to the community.
- Actively take advantage of the opportunities presented by Vashon Commons and the “opening up” of the Vashon High School theater. Develop a mind set of sharing to maximize existing space.
- Centralize a scheduling and activities log to track the use of the high school theater and other arts spaces. This function can be performed by Wendy Braikes, Parks Department employee charged with coordinating Vashon Commons scheduling. Develop a more comprehensive monthly calendar of events by combining Blue Heron activities and Vashon Commons activities on one calendar.
- Establish the Vashon High School theater as the performing arts center for the island. The Collins Group recommends establishing a budget of $250,000 – 300,000 as a suitable target for this project.
- Pursue community usage of Vashon Elementary School Outdoor Gym as a multi-use space.
- Allocate theater shops and storage space at Vashon Elementary School.
- Continue to pursue island management for Ober Park Building. Could be used for rehearsal space and classes although conversion to a teen center or senior center might take precedence.
- Remain open to community desires for a dedicated performing arts center. Develop a forum for community input and planning.
B. Specific Recommendations
Although there are many sites identified as potential places for use by performance groups, there is no community size theater facility besides the Vashon High School theater and it is restricted by lack of support space and equipment. Rather than spending time and money making small improvements to several community and private facilities, The Collins Group recommends that efforts be focused on making the high school theater a performing arts center for the island and establishing adequate support services.
1. Vashon High School
The high school theater began as a remodeled lecture hall. Recently it underwent some improvements, particularly the installation of appropriate theater seating. It has many limitations including no backstage toilets, inadequate existing stage production and storage space, poor sight lines from side seats, no light/sound control both, the loss of the stage floor and the return of about half its lighting instruments to McMurray Middle School. However, with all its shortcomings, the high school theater has the potential to be transformed into an excellent small theater at a reasonable expenditure of time and money.
The two drama department classrooms adjacent to the stage are also available, under the Vashon Commons plan, for use as audition rooms, practice studios, and overflow preparation areas. These spaces could also be used for organizational meetings, group assemblies and other needs of arts organizations as they prepare their productions or administer their organizations.
The following actions are recommended (refer to high school theater floor plans, diagram A).
Upgrade the existing facilities:
- Install a sprung floor system suitable for drama and/or dance use. The stage flooring was recently taken out due to its design. A new floor will need to be added in the next two months. This is an important factor in the long term operation of the theater. A sheet floor placed directly on the concrete base is much less useable than a sprung floor built of wood stringers, cushion pads, a sub-floor and covered with a stage floor. Such a floor is good for theater, dance and other types of programs. Gym floors can no longer be made of asphalt concrete or dirt because they cause injuries.
- Theaters floors should be approached in the same manner and for the same reason.
- Purchase a Marley-type stage covering to supply a safe surface for dance.
- Cut through back wall and extend to edge of roof line an area for sound/light control booth, plus space for two spot light stations (lower right on diagram). Currently the school has a light board, with operator, sitting in the back row of the theater. There is no sound system. If one is added, it would also have to sit on a little table in the back row. A light/sound control booth would be a significant improvement in the facility. It would also be an asset in offering technical training to students and community volunteers. The control booth will also give two spaces for spot-light stations which can open up many opportunities for more effective stage lighting.
- Build backstage restrooms plus a shower to allow performers to wash after shows (many performers generate as much sweat as basketball players do in a game). Backstage toilet facilities are essential if the theater is to meet the basic standards for a community performance space. It is awkward to send actors/dancers in costume out of the theater to use audience facilities. Restrooms must meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Correct equipment deficiencies:
- Add basic sound system, flexible enough to support varied program needs.
- Review all lighting instruments for stage (Note: About half of the lights go back to McMurray School this year. Many others are marginal in their usefulness. Some are over 40 years old, can no longer be aligned, get very hot and have poor lamp life.) Purchase/install an adequate lighting system to meet the needs of community and school.
- Purchase two new spotlights to replace the current inadequate spot (laughingly referred to as the dimmer spot since it gives so little light).
- Purchase new stage curtains. Currently there is little in the way of curtains. There is no main curtain which reduces the flexibility of the stage.
Add a small production wing:
Wing should be constructed at the back of the stage area. Size would be approximately 2,000 square feet and basically a manufacturing space — not fancy, very functional. Outside designed to conform with existing school building appearance. The wing would include:
- Rehearsal Studio and Black Box Studio. The Rehearsal Hall should be slightly larger, in interior dimensions, than the working area of the stage in the theater. The stage has a 33′ proscenium opening and approximately 25′ deep performance area. The rehearsal room should be 40′ wide and 30′ deep. This allows a full stage plus an area around the outside so actors can “get off stage”. Ceilings should be at 12′ to 14′ height with grid for lights
- Scene shop with basic materials and tools storage. Purchase shop power tools (school uses tools loaned by private sources)
- Costume preparation area and show costume storage
- General stage storage for show props and on stage sets
- Load-in door and dock for delivery of shop and show materials
The conceptual diagram illustrates [not included here] one configuration for the rehearsal room and the workshop spaces. Other configurations can be explored in final design. Restrooms should be close to the dressing rooms. Existing storage and tool areas should also be considered in the overall space allocation and design of the work shop and materials storage. Long term storage of sets and materials can be at the Vashon Elementary School.
2. Vashon Elementary School
Vashon Elementary School has the potential to fill an important need of local arts organizations and could fill a surprising niche in the recreational field as well. The study team understands that Vashon Elementary will be able to be used for limited uses even though the School District can no longer use it for a school. Vashon Elementary offers two crucial supporting facilities.
The outside gym
The gym is seen by some as a historic building with a special charm. While others may have some difficulty seeing that charm, no one can deny the gym building is being used. It is currently being used for arts organizations, classes, roller skating and basketball and this appears to be a good community mix. Several organizations have expressed the desire to have exclusive use but that has not been as feasible. Therefore, it must continue as shared space to achieve maximum use and should be an integral part of the scheduling and administrative operations of the Park District’s Vashon Commons office.
The gym does have some problems. Although the building is said to be structurally sound the floor is reputed to have some rot in the floor supports and needs repair. There are no restrooms or dressing rooms. It is reported that there will be an attempt to repair the floor and to address the issue of restrooms. This work will be good news for arts and recreation groups. It will be of particular importance to UMO which supports many community activities and develops touring arts performances. The gym is one of the few spaces on the island meeting UMO’s technical specifications.
Classroom space — costume shops
It is recommended that space in the elementary school building be obtained for a costume production shop and costume storage. Each of the fourteen useable former classrooms in the school has about 1,000 square feet. One room could be devoted to costume construction and repair, equipped with work tables and sewing equipment. It would bring together people who enjoy crafting stage clothes, hats, masks, crowns and anything else one can imagine for the stage. There is at least $20,000 worth of costumes on the island to be used as the basis of a costume collection. These are listed on a computer database which improves the effectiveness in finding, repairing, loaning and retrieving costumes. Every theater organization in the region talks about putting costumes on a database – but Vashon may be the only place where this is actually in operation. This control system makes multi-use of costumes feasible. It is possible that The Costume Shop could be a producer of costumes for a variety of local arts organizations on a shared basis. It could be a unique service to all performance groups and recreation activity for people with special interests and skills.
Half of the costume unit in the elementary school could be used for costume storage. Little remodeling would be needed with the exception of storage shelves and clothes racks. Volunteers are available to build such racks and shelves if a space can be allocated to a costume operation. Sharing is again the operative word. A Central Costume Bank where all island groups could draw out what they need for shows would enable all groups to greatly expand their costume resources at minimal cost and effort. The Costume Shop and the Costume Bank could be operated as a special arts support group under the management of the Park District’s Vashon Commons office.
Lita Baum has had this same vision for some time and is the person who established the costume data base. She believes such a costume services would allow Vashon to participate in a costume exchange program with the Seattle theater groups also.
Equipment such as sewing machines and a commercial serger have been offered to island theaters but have been turned down due to lack of a place to use the equipment. This problem would be corrected in the above proposal.
A similar arts/recreation theater craft program should be considered for the prop shop. Another classroom at Vashon Elementary could be designated for the development of stage and exhibition props. The Blue Heron, and other visual arts groups, might want to use The Prop Shop to develop special exhibition units or promotional devices. Some large scale power equipment would be located in the construction shop at the high school and would not be duplicated in the prop shop. Members of the Prop Makers Guild would supply their own hand tool kits. Some furniture or craft power tools would be required for prop makers. Most of these tools could probably be obtained as donated tools or through corporate surplus centers at low cost. Half of the 1,000 square foot classroom space could be devoted to construction and the other half to storage of props to be shared by all groups.
Assessment research did not go into a count of props, costumes or stage sets currently owned by all island performance groups. Comments related to these matters always focused on the lack of any proper storage. Drama Dock had unheated, no electricity storage at the Nike site until last year, but it was lost and the Drama Dock materials were scattered. Some are placed at the high school and are shared by Drama Dock and the school drama department.
Another classroom at Vashon Elementary could be devoted to set storage. A 1,000 square foot of storage should handle needs for the next few years. The space would require minimal heat and light. It might require a larger door to handle large dimension pieces. Most sets and materials are standard height ceiling. Costs to develop a quality stage warehouse should be minimal.
3. The Blue Heron
Without a doubt, Vashon Allied Arts (VAA) and the Blue Heron generate the greatest number of arts activities on the island. The Blue Heron, with its tiny 99 seat house, does very important work under adverse conditions. The Blue Heron should continue to do those activities that fit in its confined quarters and/or benefit from the “multiplicity of the arts” (programs that weave visual and performing arts experiences).
VAA programs are often determined by space limitations. With the availability of the high school theater, VAA can expand its programming to include larger shows and audiences.
VAA may also want to use the Costume Shop, Prop Shop and storage at Vashon Elementary. It can also consider use of classrooms, outdoor spaces and other school properties for visual, literary and performance workshops and events.
4. Drama Dock
Drama Dock would like to obtain a theater home — a separate building. This may happen in the future but for the present Drama Dock will have an opportunity to strengthen and grow as an organization by having proper rehearsal, shop and storage space and a quality stage upon which to show the full range of its talents.
Drama Dock should work with the Vashon Commons office to schedule dates and utilize existing and new school district space as it becomes available. The performing arts center concept should be of benefit to Drama Dock and help the organization forward.
V. Next Steps
Several critical steps must be taken to move the concepts in this assessment study to the operational level.
A. Plan for Vashon High School
The Collins Group recommends that this assessment study be accepted by the Vashon Arts Advisory Committee and an action plan be developed to upgrade the high school theater to better serve the entire community. A building committee consisting of seven members made up of school district, parks department and community representatives should be formed to determine design and technical specifications for changes to the high school building and equipment required to make the operation of the theater effective for community use. The committee must be committed to the underlying premise of this recommended project — effective use of existing facilities which can be expanded/enhanced at minimum cost. Fran Gordon, Lighting and Sound Consultant, can be called upon to help the committee devise equipment specifics and prepare a priority list.
After development of a basic plan of what is wanted in the new facility, an architectural firm should be retained to begin the process of turning concepts into reality.
B. Plan for Vashon Elementary School
Concepts for an island-wide costume shop have already been discussed as a independent operation by Lita Baum. The Vashon Arts Advisory Committee’s approval and support of such a program as part of an overall arts plan could be presented to the school board and the Parks District as they are considering how to make Vashon Elementary useable. No guidelines exist so it is not possible to predict what arrangements can be negotiated. But it seems a win (school) – win (Parks, recreation) – win (arts groups) situation.
A similar approach could be made for the prop shop. Check with Drama Dock and Blue Heron to see if there is a key player in setting up a group of volunteer crafts person who would like to establish a prop makers guild. Present this to the school board at same time as the costume shop plan.
A final element is long term storage for stage sets, materials, and supplies.
A third classroom unit may be available at Vashon Elementary. If this is not possible, then it may be necessary to incorporate both prop shop and long term set storage into slightly more than half of the prop shop unit.
Although recommendations in this study to solve local needs are very cost effective, they do require some capital expenditures for construction and equipment. While funding sources are not part of this assessment study, the following general approach is suggested.
Set the funding goal at a realistic, not visionary, level. Based on comparable island construction, a $250,000 to $300,000 budget should allow for the development of an improved theater at the high school.
A possible approach would be to raise half the budget goal from private sources on Vashon and surrounding areas. A Performing Arts Committee, including the Superintendent of Schools and Parks District leadership should be formed to raise the necessary local funds to challenge the County. Then a Vashon leadership group can take that sum to County sources for community and school development, stressing the shared facilities concept and ask the County to join in a partnership with local donors with matching funds to make the plan happen. The Vashon concept would seem to be a model low cost solution that might be replicated in other small communities. That should give added weight to a request from Vashon. There may be other funds available from Vashon that could be allocated to continue the planning process.
There is need for quick action on one element of the plan. The stage floor at the high school needs to be replaced within the next two months. Getting the proper floor is essential. It will influence the way the theater is used for years to come.
Timing for this plan depends on how quickly the community wants to move ahead. With Vashon Commons already in operation and many operating decisions to make, it seems appropriate to take immediate action in accepting the plan and setting the planning structure in place. There is little advantage in delay.
This is an exciting time for the performing arts on Vashon. Not only are there a number of active and popular performing arts groups but the creation of Vashon Commons now gives these groups the opportunity to present their work in one of the best theater spaces on the island. Additionally, there appears to be a very cost effective way to meet the rehearsal, set and storage needs of performing groups with the proposed addition to the Vashon High School theater and utilization of Vashon Elementary School classrooms. The Collins Group commends the community for its commitment to its artists and feels confident that islanders can work together to create an enhanced performing arts environment that will benefit the entire community.