Glimpse of art’s future

Leadership Blount alumni check out Clayton Center construction

A group of Leadership Blount alumni recently toured the soon-to-be-completed Clayton Center for the Arts on Maryville College campus.

Andy Derenski, site manager for Messer Construction, led the hour-long walk through for about 30 Leadership Blount alumni.

The site leader with Messer Construction drew laughter when he pointed out a feature the women of the group would appreciate in the new building.

“Something I should point out that is very important,” he said. “There are 16 stalls in the women’s restroom, so there shouldn’t be any lines.”

Derenski said the structure will be impressive. “From the outside at night, you’ll see all these chandeliers. It will be very pretty,”

Marble in the facility is local. “It’s from right over in Friendsville, so it’s a good Blount County product,” he said.

The construction of the facility is different from a conventional building. In rooms where performances or rehearsals are held, none of the walls are square. “These walls are built at a skew so there won’t be sounds cancelling each other out,” Derenski explained. “Its designed to keep sound out or to prevent sound from coming in,” he said. “The way this is built is with great attention to the details for acoustics.”

Work is ongoing and should be completed by December. “We have more than 200 guys on site everyday,” he said. “We’re getting an incredible amount of work done.”

Blount County Chamber of Commerce chair Bill Marrison was impressed with what he saw. “I think it’s tremendously important for the community, and I’m excited. It’s something the whole community can be proud of. I think it’s going to be neat to have it so close to home,” he said.

Leadership Blount executive director Cathy Cate said the new facility is amazing. “Is this really in Blount County; is this really happening for us? It’s going to be such a huge boost to the community,” she said. “When they have the grand opening, people are going to be amazed.”

John Hinkle, who is currently serving as campaign chair for the United Way of Blount County, said the Clayton Center for the Arts is going to be fantastic. “Maryville, Alcoa and all of Blount County are going to be proud of this,” he said.

Brandon Bruce, who is with the office of advancement and community relations, said construction should wrap up in December, with move in scheduled for January and the Kennedy Center Troupe coming in mid-February. These first two shows by the troupe will be for school children. A production of “Peter Pan” by the Appalachian Ballet Company is scheduled for April.

“You get the feeling in the 1,200 seat theater that every seat is a good seat,” said Bruce.

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