PERFORMING ARTS CENTER PLANNED IN BLUFFTON
Two local organizations have teamed up to bring a performing arts center to Bluffton.
Live Oak Christian Church and Main Street Youth Theatre are combining their efforts to build a cultural arts center on property the church owns near Old Town Bluffton. The 400-seat venue, leaders of both groups say, will have a variety of uses, from housing the church to theater productions by local and national talent, plus uses by other local organizations.
“Our desire is not to build a church building that the community uses. It’s to build a performing arts center that the church uses,” said Michael Beaumont, pastor of Live Oak Christian Church.
In 2010, church leadership started discussing how a performing arts space fit into the church’s mission to “love God, love people and bring the two together.”
We began to dream about a space of our own that the community could use for performing arts.
– MICHAEL BEAUMONT, PASTOR OF LIVE OAK CHRISTIAN CHURCH
“We looked at Bluffton and saw the town was thriving with arts and creativity and asked ourselves why there wasn’t a performing arts theater,” Beaumont said. “We began to dream about a space of our own that the community could use for performing arts.”
The church purchased the property in 2015 in State Street’s Bluffton Village development, near the post office and library, with the intent to develop it.
Daniel Cort, a Live Oak member and local Realtor who also is vice-chairman of Main Street Youth Theatre, shared the church’s vision. The church and the theater formed a partnership and commissioned a design. Plans by architectural firm Court Atkins Group show a 17,000-square foot facility with green rooms, state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and an adjustable stage appropriate for different types of youth and adult productions.
The initial fundraising effort for the performing arts center will be $5 million, Beaumont said. Main Street Youth Theatre will be responsible for 33.5% of the construction cost and Live Oak Christian Church will raise the remaining 66.5%. Injoy Stewardship Solutions of Anderson, S.C. has been hired to help plan a capital campaign, marketing, branding, golf tournaments, galas, play readings and other events to raise money. If all goes as planned, a fall ground-breaking is expected and the first performance will take place in fall 2021.
For Cort, the location of the property is key.
“It sits on the border of the historic cultural center of Bluffton, which allows us to explore grant opportunities,” he said.
Main Street’s agreement with Live Oak will allow the theater to produce up to six performances in the building each year. Other community organizations and national programs will be able to schedule time in the space by approaching a board made up of members from Live Oak Christian Church and Main Street Youth Theatre. A performing arts summer camp is also planned.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka sees the partnership as a positive, but said that the plans for the project haven’t yet been submitted for review and approval by the town.
“I love when private entities can see a need and work toward solving it,” she said. “We are a young town and they are providing a venue for our youth. It’s exciting.”