Creative arts center is a credit to Haywood Community College

Mar 07, 2013

It’s been a long and somewhat bumpy road to the grand opening of the Professional Arts and Crafts/Instructional Facility on the Haywood Community College campus last week, but the public finally got the chance to see where their tax money has gone.

So far, the new facility seems to be meeting with general approval, and in the case of the students and teachers who now have new, well-designed spaces to work in, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Funded with proceeds from a quarter-cent local option sales tax approved by county voters in 2008, the $8.3 million new building was considered a priority in the college’s master plan for the future of the campus.

The building not only houses the professional crafts programs offered at the college, but also is a site for continuing education classes and provides additional classroom space for the college.

There is no doubt a new Professional Arts and Crafts building was needed. A quick tour of the old building revealed over-crowded workspaces, dark, poorly lit rooms and overall, an environment that was not conducive to creativity. Structurally, the building was also in poor shape, and with the new building up and running, it will be torn down.

The opening date for the new facility was pushed back several times in the wake of the discovery of a number of design and engineering errors. These problems led to change orders that caused delays and more money to fix. However, money to cover the expenses were available in the contingency fund and the project did not go over budget.

Although the project might be considered an expensive one, it is important to look at the educational and economic impact such a facility can have on Haywood County. There is no doubt that the arts play a part in the local economy. Local shops throughout the county carry local artisans’ pottery, jewelry, sculpture, woodwork, fiber arts and more. Tourists and locals alike spend money on these unique products and having a strong professional arts program at HCC ensures that Haywood County will continue to be the home for many skilled artists.

In conversation with several of the creative arts students during the open house, what was most striking was they weren’t just focused on the artistic side of their work. Many of them mentioned the business side of the program as well, which teaches students how to start, run and promote a business.

While starting any sort of business is difficult in the current economy, it is encouraging to see the professional arts program at HCC doesn’t forget about the “professional” part of that equation. Many of these students could go on to make their living by practicing the skills they are learning at HCC, and giving them a facility that helps them accomplish such a goal is worthwhile.

In addition, the new building will offer expanded continuing education programs for those interested in pursuing such opportunities, and there is space for more classes and program expansion in the future.

While the Professional Arts and Crafts/Instructional Facility might seem like an unneeded expense in a time of cutbacks and budget slashing, it should instead be viewed as the community’s investment in its own future.