Meg Mauger, Sheron McClung and Amy Young chat Saturday in the Hugh N. Ronald Gallery at the Jay County Campus of Arts Place. Donors in the more than $2.4 million dollar expansion and renovation project for Arts Place gathered over the weekend for a dedication event. (The Commercial Review/Bailey Cline)
Meg Mauger, Sheron McClung and Amy Young chat Saturday in the Hugh N. Ronald Gallery at the Jay County Campus of Arts Place. Donors in the more than $2.4 million dollar expansion and renovation project for Arts Place gathered over the weekend for a dedication event. (The Commercial Review/Bailey Cline)

Welcome to the community.

That’s the feeling former Arts Place board president and capital campaign chair Mindy Weaver believes all visitors will have walking into the newly renovated and expanded Jay County Campus of Arts Place.

“It just says, ‘Come in. Everybody,’” she said, addressing a crowd at the facility’s dedication ceremony Saturday, Oct 9.

Arts Place hosted an invitation-only event for the celebration, complete with tours and a Heartland Singers performance following the dedication in Hall-Moser Theatre.

The $2.4 million capital campaign project included renovations and expansions to the Performing Arts Center, such as an expanded front reception area, a new education corridor (The Young Music Education Wing) and new community gallery (The Weaver Community Gallery). Across Walnut Street, it also added a new visual arts building — the Hudson Center for the Visual Arts.

Weaver thanked the approximately 280 individuals, families, groups or foundations that contributed and 45 solicitors who helped spur the plan into action. (She and her husband, Rob, also contributed an undisclosed amount –– they were listed as some of the top donors –– toward the campaign.)

“I cannot put into words what this building looks like tonight and what it’s going to mean to the community and future artists in this community,” Weaver said. “This place was tired and dark, and until I’ve seen what could be done to it, I didn’t realize how much it needed a facelift.”

Of its original goal, Arts Place has raised $2,316,274. Weaver noted the remaining $83,700 may be available through grants. Arts Place executive director Eric Rogers later noted although they are a small portion of the overall total, those missing funds do matter.

“(This means) new theater lighting equipment that will not be as extensive as we would like, new sound equipment that will skip, visual arts equipment that we really need but must postpone. You get the picture,” he said, adding that individuals are welcome to donate the remaining dollars at any time.

Barry and Elizabeth Hudson of Portland were some of the top contributors of the project, having donated more than $500,000. Barry’s father, Fred, in the 1970s purchased the property where the visual arts building now stands. Fred’s original plans were to build a new First National Bank branch at the space, Barry Hudson explained, but he decided instead to give the land to Arts Place. The Hudsons have also been involved throughout their lives with activities at the facility.

“We just think it’s a worthy cause,” Hudson said. “It draws people in from all over … when we’d come here, we’d see people we knew from Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Muncie.”

“There are few places in the United States that can claim this,” said John Young. (He and his late wife, Gretchen Young, contributed more than $260,000 toward the project.) He referenced the plaque in the Young Music Education Center dedicated to Gretchen, who died in March 2020, and had served on Jay County Arts Council and the Arts Place board of directors, including as president.

When asked what Arts Place means to him, John Young’s eyes began to well up.

“It means reinforcement, the belief of me and my family,” he said, holding back tears. “And a community that cannot be matched.”

Bruce Everetts of Muncie-based Taylor Architects used three words to describe the architectural process for the new building: trust, perseverance and dedication.

“I suspect that when I came to Eric with the last idea to move the arts rooms to across the street to their own building, he probably was thinking that was either crazy, or indecisive or just plain nuts,” Everetts said. “But he listened with an open mind and continued to pursue all the objects of Arts Place together, and we persevered through the process.”

Attendees to the event Saturday also watched a Heartland Singers performance of Cole Porter music.

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