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Averitts center on West Main dedicated
New theater inside named for director Mical Whitaker
Averitt Center for the Arts Youth Theater Director Mical Whitaker, left, takes stock and greets guests at the new Black Box Theater named after him following Friday's ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the new Center for Performing Arts on West Main Street.

Friday afternoon when the new Center for Performing Arts ceremonially opened in a renovated building at 41 West Main Street, the theater inside was revealed as the Mical Whitaker Black Box Theater.

This was one of several revelations honoring contributors of talent to the Averitt Center for the Arts or money to its expansion campaign.

So far the building itself has not been named for anyone

“We still have other naming opportunities available,” Averitt Center Executive Director Tim Chapman said earlier this week.

The Whitaker Black Box Theater’s external sign, which will feature neon lighting and concentric star shapes, is not up yet, but Statesboro City Council unanimously approved a rule variance earlier this week to allow it. The sign over the North College Street entrance will perpetuate the salute to Whitaker, the artistic director of the Statesboro Youth Theater and a Georgia Southern University professor emeritus of theater.

Whitaker was born in Metter but grew up in New Jersey and had an accomplished theater career, mainly as a director, in New York before returning to Georgia. Then, in 20 years teaching at Georgia Southern, he directed in more than 100 productions.

In addition to his leadership role in the youth theater program, Whitaker directs Averitt Stars community theater productions and is now also the artistic director of the Arts at Willow Hill. In 2013, he was inducted to the Georgia Theatre Hall of Fame.

Now, he can rehearse and direct some performances in a Statesboro venue with his name on it.

“I know where I am here in this cross-section of Statesboro,” Whitaker said Friday, “and I’m hoping that the black box theater will serve as an instrument of peace, as an instrument of learning, even loving.”

What makes it a black box theater is that the seating and stage can be reconfigured experimentally. But it does have black walls and dark curtains, as well as a new lighting and sound system.


Studios and gallery

After the ribbon- cutting, people who took the tour saw young dance students practicing in what is now the Jurijs Safonovs Grande Dance Studio. This studio, like the Demi Studio beside it, has ballet bars and mirrors, and a window to the corridor, where parents can watch classes.

Safonovs, a native of Latvia, where he studied at the Riga Choreographic Ballet School, arrived in the United States in 2001 and became principal dancer with Virginia Ballet Theatre in Norfolk. In 2012, he and his wife moved to Statesboro, where he serves as the Artistic Director of the Statesboro Youth Ballet.

Other built-in dedications include the Helen Rosengart Gallery, the Susan Jackson Lighting Booth, and a director’s office provided by the Downtown Rotary Club.

The Averitt Center previously released a list of “partners” in the project, including representatives of the city; the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority; the architectural firm Martin, Rule & Associates; and GSU’s interior design, theater and art departments, as well as 10 local businesses, most in the building trades.

The Averitt Center bought the old storefront building from the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority. The sale to another nonprofit does not return the building to the property tax rolls, DSDA Executive Director Allen Muldrew acknowledged in an earlier interview, but he said this should be outweighed by the “halo effect” the center has, increasing traffic to surrounding businesses.

“What they’ve been able to do is they’ve been able to bring life, traffic and synergy to that end of the street that will help everybody in our downtown area, with a quality development and quality use,” Muldrew said.

Also in earlier comments, Barry Turner, Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau vice president, compared the Averitt Center’s expansion into more downtown buildings to what the Savannah College of Art and Design has done on a larger scale in Savannah’s historic district.

“Buildings which were in need of refurbishing are utilized creatively while bringing new generations of citizens downtown. …,” Turner wrote. “The Averitt Center is a great community partner, and we are excited that they are expanding their footprint, and more importantly, their programs.”


Phase 1 of 3

The building at 41 W. Main St. represents Phase 1 of the Averitt Center’s master plan.

In Phase 2, a building on East Vine Street that previously housed the dance classes will become the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts.  Phase 3 will be the Thurman Lanier Center for Art Education, in an as-yet unidentified location.

Now, the campaign to raise funds for these projects has entered a new, more public phase, announced Averitt Center Board of Directors President Jenny Foss.

With $247,000 in cash and commitments, the effort has covered more than half the roughly $400,000 cost of Phase I, campaign chairman Jack Orman said Friday.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.



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