After years of campaigning and construction, Gamut Theatre Group held the grand opening and ribbon cutting today for its new Education Center.
Located at the back of the theater in downtown Harrisburg, the center features the new Alexander Grass Second Stage, two renovated classrooms and technical teaching shops for students to learn about costume construction, scenery design, sound, lighting and more.
“What this space does is it provides a way for us to really focus in a geographical way in this building on our children’s theater, which is what we started with,” said Clark Nicholson, Gamut’s co-founder and artistic director. “We wanted it to have a home, and we have it today.”
The 10,000-square-foot center features a wooden stage in the center of the room surrounded by seats and pews, with a balcony one on side. The walls feature a mural by local artist Jacintha Clark, who painted cotton candy-colored clouds merging with a night sky filled with golden stars on the ceiling. Behind the seats on the first floor are two rooms for costumes and props. Upstairs are three rooms: one for teaching, another for lounging and a third full of knick-knacks, books, paintings and more.
The new space will house the Popcorn Hat Players Children’s Theatre, as well as the Stage Door Series Ensemble and Gamut Theatre Academy, all year round. Before, students floated among various places in the theater, but this new space will be their permanent home.
“The core of this mission is the classic story, these universal truths and these stories that have been around for hundreds of years. We give kids access to those,” said Jeff Luttermoser, dean of the Gamut Theatre Summer Academy. “They are going to be the keepers of those stories and the following generation. So, it’s so important that we do that work, and we get to do that here.”
The center was created with the help of partners such as Harristown Enterprises, the city of Harrisburg and the Alexander Grass Foundation. Arts patron Lois Grass was the advisor for the Gamut Theatre Capital Campaign, which raised $2.3 million for the project.
This is the second phase of construction for Gamut, which purchased the former First Church of God in 2013 and has been busy at work since raising money and turning the historic building into theater space. The first phase, completed in 2015, focused on the lobby, mainstage and other core components.
“We’re not just going to have a bigger building and touch more kids lives,” said Brad Winnick, Gamut Theatre’s board vice president. “But now we’re going to actually increase the breadth and depth of what we do.”
The first performance on the new stage will be this Thursday, Aug. 9, through Aug. 19, when Gamut will present “Hijacked!” a choose-your-own play performance starting at 7:30 p.m.
“The most exciting thing to me, as a parent, is that every one of these kids is going to grow up and be adults who may be on stage,” said Winnick. “They are going to be the people that keep that arts community that Gamut is a part of in this city–and whatever communities they live in–alive.”
Gamut Theater is located on 15 N 4th St., Harrisburg. For more information visit www.gamuttheatre.org