The fastest way to get across Roswell Road is by bike. If I were in my car, I probably would have spent a few more minutes staring at the $200 million dollar City Springs Project located three blocks west of Mount Vernon. For the first time, I could grasp a true understanding of the project’s massive scope: there are four acres of outdoor fountains and green space, a massive Performing Arts facility including a five-story building, and residential buildings nestled behind that. The significance of the project is tangible.
David Daly, the newly appointed Director of Programming for the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center (SSPAC), is responsible for booking the venue and cultivating relationships with the community organizations who will use, and benefit from, the SSPAC. As we sat down in the offices overlooking the construction site, we talked about why the arts matter in Sandy Springs, the incredible growth of the city, and the opportunities for the arts to amplify a community that is already rich with culture and brimming with potential.
-David Daly on desigining the Sanding Springs Performing Arts Center (SSPAC)
Building a sense of civic pride
As we talked about the City Springs project and the new Upper School building about to break ground on Mount Vernon’s campus, David explained how important a physical space can be to the identity of a community. “We get to build a sense of place with the residents,” David explained as he talked about meeting with Sandy Springs residents about the construction project. “It’s fun to citizens about the project because they say, ‘I can’t believe this is Sandy Springs!’ We are building a sense of civic pride.” David explained the need for a venue of this capacity (approx. 1,000 seats) in metro Atlanta. The caliber of this space will allow SSPAC to be a turn-key facility for community groups and schools like ours, who want to produce innovative events in the new space. “Some of the greatest things I have been a part of were when we allowed artists to come in and conceptualize the space in ways that we couldn’t imagine.”
“We are really interested in engaging the community…getting feedback on things they want to see,” David explained, as he discussed the surveys and feedback tools they’ve used to learn what Sandy Springs residents would like to see at the SSPAC When asked what trends have emerged from this research, David said, “Traditional performing arts offerings are always popular, and the public is really eager to see performances by “marquee” names. There is also great interest in eduaction through the arts – the content we put on the stage will be powerful, and our educational programming will be, as well.”
Building for diverse audiences
As we shared our excitement around the opening of our respective arts facilities, we discussed the reach that these new high-quality spaces will afford diverse audiences. After discussing our students’ production of the Magic Paintbrush, we started talking about what it means to offer programming for families with special needs. “This is a diverse community that includes many underserved populations. Sensory-friendly programming has become a major discussion in the arts world… these are families who don’t often have the opportunity to go out and do something as a family because of the challenges they face. I can’t think of any more powerful thing for us to do, than to offer a place and space for these families to enjoy and experience an arts event.”
As we talked through the wide range of programming options for the SSPAC due to its technical abilities and community-centered mission, we agreed that the arts spaces we build represent more than a place for entertaining performances. “The arts provide a place for communities to celebrate, mourn, have dialogue, gather, educate and be entertained. They are the focal point for a strong, healthy community.”
David said it best when he explained,“ As an arts administrator, I’ve always been proud of creating a place for people to experience art and provide a place for artists to work.”
At Mount Vernon, everyone is an artist and our artists will benefit exponentially from the amazing arts facilities, opportunities, and partnerships, which are being built in our front yard.