Friday, March 14, 2008

The Long Center and its meaning!

While many of us who grew up in Austin can remember the old Palmer Auditorium from our youth, the City has seen finally the opening of the Long Center. The view above is of the city skyline from the Long Center's city terrace.

For those that were not able to see the Sneak Peak weekend a few weeks back, you missed quite a show. Long Center staff did a great job of putting together a party that would make anyone proud - with diverse and eclectic entertainment - from African-American storytelling, to the ever popular Earth Harp (that stretched the entire city terrace), to Ballet Austin, and anything else that might be imaginable under its halo and roof. As a talent wrangler for the Saturday performances, I was able to see much of the backstage part of the Long Center few might get to see. I saw staff throughout the day, in efforts to try to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible.

Not that there were not hiccups here and there - that is to be expected! However, I continued to be impressed with the efforts of Cliff Redd, the Center's Executive Director, to make sure that everyone will see the Long Center as the home of Austin's arts, and that everyone (like all house guests) needs to feel welcome and valued when they are at the Center. At times when no public members where around, I even saw Cliff in his gracious way made sure to continue to express those warm attitudes to junior staff, sometimes who were concerned about this hiccup or that one. It is clear to me, though, that the staff at the Long Center do a great job, and I think will continue to make this city proud with its efforts.

In addition, the building itself is just beautiful!! This is a photo from the Long Center's website of the Dell Concert Hall. Getting to the Dell Hall early for my orientation on Friday night, I was able to take my own "private tour" of the hall itself, while the staff were making ready for Saturday. The hall is impressive, with every detail taken care of. What Cliff and the others would make sure you were aware of is that most of the center was built with recycled and reused parts of the former Palmer Auditorium, including re-smelting the steel, and reusing the roof tiles in the building, some still showing hail marks from their prior lifetime.

However, the grandeur of the final product stands also for the proposition that anything great does not come to fruition over night, and also not without much hard work and perseverance. The Staff, under Cliff's strong but graceful leadership, raised the money needed for the Center from all private donations, working for each dollar given. I would also bet that the total number of donors to the final product far surpasses the number of donors most centers like it can thank.

Even as soon as a year ago, Catalyst 8 took a tour of the center and saw the bones of the project. While it showed glimpses of its future greatness, it was still filled with lots of dust and determination alone. This is a photo that I took of the stage while it was still under construction, showing its basic framing. But even at this stage, Cliff would probably make sure to tell you that the entire Dell Hall is separate from the Rollins Theatre, including no common walls or even the foundation, so there is no sound bleed. However, what I found more interesting is the amount of backstage areas that the hall has, ... making it somewhat easy to get lost back there until you get used to the floor plan. Even some of the staff were still getting used to where things were the day of the Sneek Peak.

Also, even though the City skyline has changed some in the last year and continues to change with the new Condo buildings going in, the view then and now from the Long Center is surely the future of the City's arts coming together.

So what is the most important meanings to the Long Center for me?

I think the Long Center stands for the proposition that this City can move forward into the future, that we can integrate the past with that future, and make sure that while we find new greatness, we can include the historical charm that makes this city special. While change can take time and work, the end product is often worth the effort. This city, my friend, is out there waiting for you to become more involved! Consider the Long Center as one of the stops I would strongly recommend!

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