By Ron Fitzwater
Feb. 17, 2012. BLOWING ROCK — Thanking the “hundreds of donors and supporters who gave their time, talents and financial resources to the cause,” Blowing Rock Cultural Arts Center (BRCAC) board chairman, Ron Bryson announced last week that the Blowing Rock Cultural Arts Center would close immediately.
This is not the first time that the center has found itself on hard times. After an initial three-year operation, 2006-2009 the center closed and undertook an extensive restructuring before reopening. But more than anything else, what finally brought the curtain down was the wide-spread economic recession, which lead to short ticket sales and fewer donations.
“We saw the effects of the struggling economy begin taking a serious toll on the center in 2009 as donations had been greatly declining. Our priority has always been to our local community so we explored every option and worked hard to stay open,” Bryson said. Those options led BRCAC to a multimillion dollar loan from Wachovia Bank (now, Wells Fargo) who became the lien holder and then to Wells Fargo exercising their right for foreclosure on the center. To date, no information has been given for any future plans for, or the sale of, the property by Wells Fargo.
While it is unclear what the economic repercussions will be for the town, the cultural loss will be felt in the arts community, but Bryson is optimistic about the future of the arts in Blowing Rock saying, “We believe the center’s spirit of enriching lives through the arts will continue and that the community will embrace and expand the arts.”
According to Tracy Brown, Executive Director, Blowing Rock Tourism Development, the closing of the Hayes center will have a slight negative impact on tourism and commerce in the town.
“The Hayes Center and its programming is a piece of the overall offerings of our town and by it being closed, it will have a slight negative impact. We do still have professional theatre here with The Ensemble Stage Company that operates out of the Blowing Rock School Auditorium. We expect the Mountain Home Music programming by Joe Shannon to continue at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium throughout the season. There is still plenty of live music throughout town at the various restaurants and pubs to enliven a visitors evening.”
As to concerns from local business owners already unsettled by the Highway 321 widening project, Brown said that there are “concerns from some businesses that rely on late night business when patrons get out of a show and look for a night cap or quick bite to eat before heading back to their accommodations,” [that there could be a loss of revenue].
Photo by Ron Fitzwater.