For the past 25 years, Fuquay-Varina leaders have tinkered with the idea of a local arts center — a place to take classes or catch a production.
It has been one of residents’ most-requested facilities, after an aquatic center, according to municipal government surveys. Neighboring towns Apex, Holly Springs and Garner have similar arts centers, and Fuquay-Varina was one of the remaining Wake County towns to build one.
This spring, that long-awaited wish came to fruition with the new Fuquay-Varina Arts Center. The center opened in March on 123 E. Vance St., in what was once the Stars Theater. A community open house and celebration is scheduled May 18.
“My favorite part about the whole process is the sheer excitement that people have,” said Maureen Daly, director of the Arts Center. “People walk in and go, ‘This is something in Fuquay? Oh my gosh.’ That excitement of folks in the community to have a resource like this is my favorite.”
The building was transformed and expanded to create a 19,700-square-foot modern venue. The first floor contains an open gallery with space for up to 50 pieces of art, along with a dance studio, a green room, dressing rooms and access to the first floor and stage of the two-story 294-seat theater.
The second floor holds four classrooms for various art forms, a painting studio, a digital studio and upper access to the theater.
“We can program everything in a variety of ways,” Daly said.
Classes are taught in week-long sessions. The center has hired 40 instructors, and so far, the center offers classes including oil painting, singing, acting, tapestry weaving, watercolors, video editing and dancing.
The theater is set up to host concerts, plays and movies. Upcoming performances include the Fuquay-Varina Chorale (May 17-18); master illusionist Joshua Lozoff (June 7) as well as the Alfred Hitchcock play, “The 39 Steps.”
All artists will be local, Daly said. Gallery exhibits generally will change every six to seven weeks, but there already has been a rapid succession of displays. Arts Council artists showcased 45 pieces of works, while Japanese embroidery also has been on display.
“We have so much talent right here,” Daly said. “I think a lot of people are trying to see what art lives and stems from their home.”
The project cost about $5 million, Daly said in an email, which includes buying the property, design fees, construction, renovation and furnishings.
Daly said the center is something residents can be proud to call their’s. Szostak Design, the same firm who designed the Durham Performing Arts Center, designed the Fuquay-Varina center, giving the middle of downtown something modern and beautiful, she said.
Having the Arts Center downtown is a great way for attendees to support neighboring businesses, Daly said.
“We are only as good as we are active,” Daly said. “We look forward to being a good partner to our downtown merchants and we would like to have a constant flow. We are always refining what we offer. We want to reach the community and encourage them to participate.”
▪ Upcoming events: The open house is May 18, from 10:30 through the evening. A dance recital is at 10:30 a.m. (free) The Fuquay-Varina Chorale performance is at 2 p.m. ($8). There will be an auction at 7 p.m. of works from the En Plen Air paint-off, which is Friday, May 17.