Key Peninsula resident Jonathan Bill has been involved in the arts in one way or another for decades. He’s been teaching for 20 years, the last seven of those as drama and history instructor at Peninsula High School.

He’s also president of the newly formed board of directors for a new regional arts center that’s being planned near the Gig Harbor YMCA.

“When the project got started about 15 months ago, I thought it was exciting, but I also thought it seemed like a pie-in-the-sky effort,” Bill said.

“But it’s envisioned as a center for all arts groups from the Key Peninsula and Gig Harbor, the school district and the entire community. I was particularly pleased that all the Key Peninsula groups are involved, because, even though the facility won’t be on the peninsula, it’s close enough geographically that people on the Key will be able to use it,” he said.

When the effort was just in the initial planning stages, Bill was skeptical about its success. There were some major players involved, and some artists that he really respects and architects that are well known in this community.

“But everyone had their own list of what they wanted in this center, and everyone wanted something different,” he said. “The wish list was so long that I came home from those first meetings and told my wife, ‘This is ridiculous. They’ll never be able to put all this together under one roof.’ I was really disdainful of the prospects for success.”

Then in early 2012, Mark Hoppen, one of the leaders of the project, announced that a site had been secured for the new center. “He said, ‘We do have a place for this. It’s a piece of property across from the Y,’” Bill recalled.

“Harbor Christian Center owns the property and they are perfectly willing to allow the property to be used for this purpose so long as they get to use the facility for their services and other activities,” Bill said.

A few months after the announcement of the property acquisition, BLRB, the architectural firm who had donated their time to design the new center, made a presentation with complete architectural concepts.

“They came back with a real, serious-looking design,” Bill said. “The building is beautiful and it fits on the site. The campus is quite attractive and it includes all the facilities that we, as a group, had discussed. They (BLRB) put them together in a very workable, efficient way and it will be beautiful when it’s built. The working title is the Gig Harbor Regional Arts Center, and all the groups that participated in this process will have a place in the proposed design,” he said.

Bill feels strongly that the center will be a good thing for the entire community. By connecting all of these arts groups and putting them in one place, he feels it creates a center where it has dynamism and focus, and will have something going on all the time, he said.

“People will be attracted to that, whether they are students who stay here or other members of the community who haven’t realized how much creativity there is in this area, they’ll find something to do there.”

That vision comes with a big price tag. Bill and his fellow Art Center directors estimate that the facility will cost $31 million.

But before that artistic vision can even move forward, there’s lots of work yet to do.

“Right now, we’re at the point where we’re asking for donations for an economic feasibility study, which will cost about $51,000,” he said.

Once the feasibility study is complete, the real fundraising work will begin.

“Then you’ll see a public fundraising effort like we saw for the Harbor History Museum and the Boys and Girls Club,” he said.

For information, contact Jonathan Bill at billj@psd401.net or Mark Hoppen at dfordollar@aol.com.

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