BELEN—Representatives from a local theater collaborative brought more details about a proposed performing arts center to the Belen Board of Education last week, but the board members held off taking further steps until they have more information.
Miguel Hidalgo, the board president of the VIVO Theatre Consortium, told the school board members the group had looked at several locations for a center, some of which were historical, but the distict-owned old ALCO building on Reinken Avenue in Belen fit the bill.
“It really is a blank palette for a performing arts center,” Hidalgo said. “At about 40,000 gross square feet, the facility can be designed as just about anything.”
Hidalgo said the building could hold a 450-plus seat auditorium, plus areas for classrooms, costume and set construction and storage, as well as a lobby area that could double as art gallery space.
“We are looking at possibly housing a very state-of-the-art performing art center with sound, lights and acoustics to make it a very viable facility,” he said. “This could be extensively used by not just our consortium but other entities in the county.”
Board member Max Cordova asked how VIVO planed to fund the center. Hidalgo said they were seeking federal grants and state appropriations, as well as funds from local private businesses.
“This will be a public-private partnership between VIVO and other entities,” he said.
Cordova said a PAC was a great idea, but he was hesitant for the district to jump into a partnership if no money has been committed.
VIVO is in the process of obtaining its nonprofit status, Hidalgo said, but as the group begins approaching potential funders, they would like to be able to say there’s a location.
Belen Board of Education board secretary Lisa Chavez asked what kind of commitment the group was asking from the district.
“Do you want to lease? Will you pay utilities,” Chavez asked. “Our budget is strapped.”
Hidalgo said he envisioned the group taking care of the operation and maintenance of the building but was hoping to address those types of details in a memorandum of understanding with the district.
Board member Aubrey Tucker asked Hidalgo to give him a number on what it would cost to get a PAC up and running. Hidalgo said about $2 million for lighting, sound and mechanical systems, plus some slight structural modifications to raise a portion of the roof.
Tucker also asked who would have control of the venue in terms of what types of performances would be held there.
“Yes, it’s open to the public but there should be some sort of way the schools have a say so in what will be presented,” Tucker said. “If something is at odds with what the populace likes, it’s still a learning facility and still Belen Schools. A lot of people won’t differentiate.”
Hidalgo said given the members of the consortium, which includes the drama departments from Belen and Los Lunas high schools, performances would be educational and always in good taste.
“But you bring up good questions. I think these can all be addressed in an MOU because it is on school property,” he said. “We are in no way trying to get you to transfer the property to the consortium.”
Board president Jim Danner said he didn’t think any of the board members disagreed that a PAC was something the community needs and wants.
“What we’re talking about is an MOU of wish, of hope. There are lots of other factors that this board or you have no control,” Danner said.
He pointed out that the district had tried to lease the building for $600,000 to Tractor Supply but the New Mexico Public Education Department nixed the contract over insurance coverage.
“Let’s keep the conversation open,” he said.
The board voted 5-0 to table moving forward with an MOU with VIVO until it and Hidalgo could gather more information and answer some of the questions raised at the meeting.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.