Dancers don’t like to dance in corners,” says Lucinda “Cindy” Einhouse, president and CEO of Beck Center for the Arts, a nonprofit performing arts and arts education organization.
Restrictive studio layouts and performance areas were a problem for dance students and professionals at Beck Center until recently. Major building changes and the demolition this summer of the complex’s Annex building have allowed dancers to backspin, fan-kick and perform arabesques with abandon. The removal of the Annex, which held the former creative arts offices, is part of Beck Center’s $6.7 million Raise the Roof fundraising campaign launched in 2020. Phase 3 of the campaign’s construction projects began Aug. 16 of this year.
“It was determined that the Annex building would have cost over $3 million to renovate,’’ Einhouse says. “Even after a renovation, the building would still have been such an odd shape. It’s a parallelogram.’’
Additional reasons justified the Annex’s removal, which happened only after Einhouse and her staff and supporters checked for possible historic preservation conflicts.
“We determined if that building wasn’t there, then people would actually be able to see our front entrance, and we would have additional space for a pocket park,” Einhouse says. “We have a little park now, but this would give us additional space for the community. Removal of the building also allows us to soften the curve of the entranceway, which has been such a dramatic angle. When school buses pulled up to let children off, no one else could get by.”
Einhouse sees a huge benefit of re-doing the front entrance, part of the complex built in the 1970s. Narrow doors and a small vestibule prohibited users with wheelchairs from using the front door. Those visitors, and performers and artists, needed to use the back door to get into the Center. An additional improvement is the installation of a marquee for the Senney Theater, one of several performance stages.
“We are really excited about that signage,” Einhouse says. “The production quality there is really quite good. But it was hard for people to find us if they didn’t already know where we were.”
Phase 1 renovations on the main building’s Fowler-Spellman Education Wing began in August 2020 and “were celebrated for completion” in March 2021. Phase 2 began in August 2021 and was completed in March 2022. The former Armory building (built in 1938) was renovated into the Music and Creative Arts Therapies Building.
Beck Center personnel and supporters are thinking ahead to Phase 4. Those plans include adding at least one more dance studio, raising the roof on the second floor and adding more restrooms.
“The longer it takes to raise the money, costs go up,” Einhouse says. “We are really trying to get everything wrapped up in time for May 16, 2023 — the 90th anniversary of the organization’s incorporation. We were incorporated on May 16, 1933, and the first season began the September of that year.”
Beck Center widely has become known not just for dance and theater, but for visual arts instruction (watercolors, drawing, pottery, cartooning), music instruction (piano, guitar, strings, percussion) and visual art and creative art therapies.
The 2022-2023 professional theater season features seven productions, including: Elf the Musical, December 2 to December 30; Ghost the Musical, February 10 to February 26, 2023; Noises Off, March 24 to April 16, 2023; Doubt: A Parable, May 26 to June 25, 2023; and Once on This Island, July 7 to August 6, 2023.
For more information and ticket details, go to beckcenter.org.