Watching

Webcam offers eye to observe CAC progress

In this high-tech age, the great cities and monuments of the world are available live via web cam to anyone with Internet access.

Maryville College recently joined that revolution when they installed a web camera to give a live image of the progress on Blount Civic Arts Center at Maryville College. Right now, the camera shows the beginnings of the structure, standing before a backdrop of Maryville landmarks such as the MC smokestacks, the courthouse, and much of downtown in the distance.

The community can watch the progress on the CAC in ten-second increments via web cam. Live video is available both directly from the Maryville College website (http://www.maryvillecollege.edu/giving/_popups/webcam.asp) and through a link on the City of Alcoa website (http://www.cityofalcoa-tn.gov/).

The web cam gives community members the ability to keep up with the progress on what CAC executive director Robert Hutchens said is their facility.

“People have been interested in this building for a very long time, close to ten years I think, and, finally, there is something there that they can see, ten seconds by ten seconds,” he said.

The web cam is not the first to broadcast the progress of a construction project on the campus. A similar web cam oversaw the erection of Lloyd Hall, which was completed in 2003. The camera was very popular with alumni and donors, who were able to see the direct effect of their giving as well as the evolution of the campus. This inspired Maryville College to implement the technology with the CAC, a much larger project making use of the resources and input of a much wider community.

The construction is being monitored by the management firm Lawler-Wood, and, according to their most recent data, the project is on schedule. Fundraising has passed the $40 million mark, but nearly $7 million more is needed. The building should be complete by December of 2009, and small performances to test the capacity of each venue should begin early in 2010.

Tours will also be offered so that anyone in the community who wishes will be able to learn about the facility. Hutchens’ plans, yet to be reviewed by the advisory and executive committees on the project, include a “soft” opening to work out logistical issues like parking and tickets, followed by a grand opening to celebrate the center’s completion, likely in mid-spring. Karyn Adams, assistant vice president for Marketing and Communications at Maryville College, said the goal of this progressive unveiling is to give “every single person in this community a chance to come through this building.”

As the Civic Arts Center rises out of the ground, plans for its future use are beginning. Much of the work of determining the spirit and function of the CAC will take place during the construction phase, Hutchens said.

Hutchens said his primary concern is that the CAC become an integral part of the community, serving the wide variety of interests represented in Blount County, from ballet to bluegrass.

“Art is made by and for people, and when something has a clear and loyal audience, you have to respect it,” he said. “It’s going to take time for the center to find its identity, and that identity will reflect the people in this area, particularly the people who choose to use the center.”

Hutchens said he has been involved in the arts at Maryville College since he was 5 years old, when he began to take music lessons on campus. At 16, he began to act in plays, and has participated in the MC theater program ever since. His decades of involvement have included many plays, band clinics, musicals, a spelling bee, and even one attempt to “dance, pathetically, in a ballet,” he said.

Hutchens has worked as the director of the Bijou Children’s Theatre and the director of Public Relations and Promotion for the University of Tennessee Theatres. His most recent position was as the assistant director of the Center for International Education at Maryville College.

In keeping with his background, Hutchens plans to promote children’s programming at the CAC, particularly through a revival of children’s theatre, as well as workshops for artists, dancers and performers of all ages. “We have community theater groups springing up like mushrooms, and we need to have a place for them,” he said, as well as for community gatherings of other kinds.

The Civic Arts Center will be able to host graduations, ceremonies and family gatherings in its many facilities, which will include a coffee shop and café that will open out onto the center’s plaza.

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