By Marcy Stamper
Although it is the biggest performance space in Twisp, the Methow Valley Community Center gym was designed for basketball games and wrestling matches, not for acoustical resonance. But because today the gym is used for numerous concerts and theatrical productions each year, a group of Community Center tenants and performing arts organizations have started to explore the possibilities for adaptations that could improve the sound and lighting in the 4,000-square-foot space.
Called the “Better Space Project,” the possibility for upgrades is being researched by a committee with representatives from the community center, the Methow Valley Theater, the music organization Cascadia and the Pipestone School of Music, along with community members with relevant experience, said Kirsten Ostlie, manager of the community center.
“Our goal is to just make it a better space for concerts and other events,” said Ostlie, who said the group started talking about options about four months ago.
So far, the group has solicited community input and support, circulating a petition to the 600 audience members who attended the two nights of the Cascadia Holiday Concert in December, and with a poster in the community center outlining the prospect of “Better Sound, Better Lighting, Better Stage, Better Experience.”
“We’re just trying to get people thinking about this so the place is in their minds,” said Ostlie, who said people often ask about the sound quality, since sounds tend to bounce off the hard surfaces in the gym. Ostlie said people have floated the idea of improving the acoustics in the gym for the five years she has been manager.
Ideas to improve the environment in the gym include panels that will absorb echoes, energy-efficient lights for performances and wiring to handle the system, and ways to reconfigure the stage for different uses.
The gym is still used for athletic events, including roller-skating parties and dances, as well as for a wide range of community events.
The idea for a better space is still in the preliminary stages, with committee members researching possible sources of grant funding.
As part of recent renovations to the 101-year-old building, the gym has already gotten some upgrades, including new windows and curtains, which help mute the harshness of the hard surfaces, and a paint job. The curtains were paid for through a grant from the Methow Valley Fund and matching funds raised by the community center.
The community center also replaced the roof and the long-missing bell tower, reinsulated the attic, remodeled common areas, and adapted the first-floor bathroom to be accessible. In addition to the grant from the Methow Valley Fund and donations from Twisp High School alumni (the last class graduated from the former school in 1973) and the Methow Valley Christmas Tree Project, community center staff and volunteers contributed a significant amount of labor to make the projects affordable, said Ostlie.
Better Space committee members are asking for names of people interested in supporting or helping with the project. A poster and petition are at the community center. For more information, call 997-2926.