A letter from Chester County 2020 Director Nancy Mohr in this week's The Kennett Paper reported that resources are not available just now for a large-scale performing arts center in Kennett Square.
With that said, she also added that the committee members she represents -- The Kennett Cultural Center Committee -- are disappointed but not devastated by the results of a professional firm's feasibility study.
We agree with Mrs. Mohr's assessment of the situation. Just because the region is not in a position to house a Carnegie Hall kind of building, doesn't portend the demise of the area's arts. It just means that performing groups have to be creative in finding places and that a less ambitious plan for construction might better fit the bill.
Mrs. Mohr cites a study conducted in 1998 by the Kennett Symphony of Chester County. Like the most recent survey, that study concluded that the area was not ready for a large concert hall even though people liked the symphony.
One reason the surveyors then and now may have concluded a large facility is not feasible is that something massive enough to house an audience big enough for a symphony concert -- say 1,200 people -- would sit idle for much of the year. It would require heating, cleaning and care without generating continuous income.
There are other reasons as well.
Big names that come to town attracting big audiences generally go to Wilmington or Philadelphia, drawing from wider audiences. And many of the smaller local entertainers, like those who perform with Turtle Dove Folk Club and Kennett Area Theatrical Society (KATS) don't need a massive concert hall.
Ever optimistic, Mrs. Mohr makes the observation that performers need not go begging for stages. There are many venues for performance nearby -- namely Longwood Gardens, the schools, West Chester's arts and galleries and the Coatesville Cultural Center. We think so, too. And don't forget Anson B. Nixon Park if they ever put a backing on the stage to keep out the setting sun.
Finding performance venues when space is tight and finances are limited is not unique to this area.
Greenwich Village comes to mind. There, little theaters, coffee houses and small art galleries abound. It's a virtual center for culture in an area where a sprawling hall just doesn't have room to grow. And yet, there is no lack of culture. That spirit is possible here as well given a critical mass of enthusiasm and savvy.
This is where Mrs. Mohr and the committee of which she is a member have offered another good idea: a communications and marketing thrust. She calls it "The Kennett Regional Cultural Alliance," and it would maintain an inventory of arts groups, meeting spaces, performance facilities and possibly central ticketing.
We're behind it and would love to see it work.
One word of warning, however: Let the local arts coordinating agency open its doors to the total demographic that exists here. Keep the snobby, uppity spirit that permeates some cultural societies out of the Kennett Square version. Let in the fresh air.
Let the plan follow the lead of Tom Nale and Gordon Farquhar who recently founded free art lessons for local children. They tapped into the very basic human yearning for art and found it in abundance.
The "Cultural Alliance" just might do the same.