Barton Community College will officially show off its newly remodeled Fine Arts Auditorium and foyer area by hosting an open house event from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, March 27.
The event will feature live performances from Barton students and comments from Barton administrators. There will also be a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. Attendees will have the opportunity to tour all areas of the remodeled facility including the stage and backstage areas.
Barton’s Director of Chorale Activities Vern Fryberger said the process has been very in-depth.
“We really did a lot of planning,” he said. “We spent a year planning before any work was done. It had been over 40 years since there had been any major improvements to the theater and we were just out of date.”
The renovations began last summer with a complete reconfiguration of seating to create aisle accessibility, which opened up the theater in terms of getting around and improved the overall viewing experience.
While many seats had to be removed, the auditorium still has more than adequate capacity for the college’s events Fryberger said.
“We have more seats than we will need for all of our activities, and if we feel like we need more, we can always host multiple performances,” he said. “We have modernized the layout and made it so much more accessible … even for rehearsals, it’s so much easier to get around and you do not always have to climb over seats.”
The project included the purchase of state of the art lighting and sound equipment.
“Our equipment was very worn and we had patched some things to make do,” he said. “I compare lighting and sound to plumbing and electricity. As long as everything works, you don’t ever notice it but when it starts cutting out on you then it’s a problem. Our new equipment will enhance the audience members’ experience because we can create more drama with different kinds of light and they won’t have a problem straining to hear what people are saying.”
Fryberger said the addition of new sound and lighting equipment allows them to offer a strong technical aspect through the theater department.
“We are trying to strongly promote the technical side of theater, and to do that we need modern lighting and sound equipment to give our students the opportunity to work with contemporary equipment so they will be prepared as they move on to a university setting,” he said.
The foyer area received new paint, soffit, display cases, lighting, artwork and an ornate, wall-sized donor plaque that pays tribute to all who have donated funds to various fine arts enhancements.
The project was funded by the college as a capital improvement along with fundraising efforts by the Barton Foundation, which included the “Take A Seat” campaign.
Fryberger said the improvements are a great step forward for everyone involved in productions as well as the audience members.
“We’re just really happy to finally get to this point,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming and we are very happy with the end result. It will make every production better and easier to create.”