Performing Arts Center bridges college with community

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Up and coming hardly describes the ambitious pace at which the city of Florence has been embracing the arts over the last few years.

City planners have been hard at work making sure the Florence community continues to be the hub for art and culture in the Pee Dee.

For 20 years now Florence County has been trying to come up with an arts corridor, something centrally located and all inclusive. Just across the street from the Performing Arts Center, construction has begun on a brand new museum.

But the crown jewel is the Performing Arts Center itself, right in the heart of the city of Florence. And what a crown it is. Something you have to see to believe.

No doubt, most visitors to this brand new Performing Arts Center will question whether they've stepped into a metropolitan city ten times this size. The stunning features of this building truly set it apart in a small, southern downtown peppered with turn of the century architecture.

Once inside, everyone has the same reaction.

"They look around in awe. A lot of times they'll say, 'I can't believe I'm in Florence," Laura Simms said.

A Florence with a new view of who it is and where it's going, this 61,000 square foot center is designed to wow.  It's also designed to rival concert halls in some of the nation's largest cities.

Laura Simms continued to say, "Acoustically this space is just unparalleled right now in the southeast."

Some parts of the Performing Arts Center aren't so acoustically perfect, serving amore academic purpose. The Performing Arts Center is truly a multi-purpose building.

"We have an actually academic wing as part of the whole facility. The academic wing houses our music industry degree. It's a combination business and performance degree either vocal or instrumental," Simms said

Add to that a black box theater for more intimate productions, faculty offices and even an outdoor amphitheater.

And while this complex could have been built on campus, Francis Marion University is serious about the idea that it takes a community to create a college. The college wanted this landmark to be a bridge between the two.

It was the community that supported its construction in every way.

Simms said, "So this facility was built without a mortgage? True, yes, correct. It is paid in full right now."

The Performing Arts Center is state of the art, high tech. The Pee Dee is certainly lucky to have a facility like the Performing Arts Center here in Florence.

Interesting as it is these marble walls inside and outside the facility are actually made of veteran style headstones. You can see the rounded tops, the bases broken and inserted, recycled because there were either misspellings etched into them or they were damaged in some way.

Instead of just grinding them to dust they decided to use them in this facility.

To learn more about the Performing Arts Center, visit Francis Marion University online.

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