Fine Arts Center restoration under way
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The first step to restore the auditorium at the old F.E. Burleson Elementary School was made this week as a group of inmates from the Decatur Work Center began dismantling and removing the ceilings, walls and floors from the space formerly used by the library, health room and guidance office.
"It's like an archeological dig," said Amy Golden, chairman of the Hartselle Fine Arts Committee. "Every time you pull something down your eyes are opened to something new and different. For example, we didn't realize that the original balcony floor had three different levels until we started ripping off the top floor. Now you not only can see the original oak floor but the markings where the seats were attached."
"This is going to be a real treasure for our community when we get it restored," she pointed out. "It's potential is mind-boggling, especially to those of us who never saw it in its original condition. We believe there'll be enough space on the main floor and balcony to seat 150 people. Our plans include the installation of an elevator to make the facility accessible to everyone.
"Our goal now is to open up the auditorium to its original size so the people of our community can get a grasp of its potential," Golden added. "We hope to have it open for public viewing at our Spring Benefit April 22.
She also pointed out that the Fine Arts Committee recently received a $3,750 matching grant from Alabama State Council on the Arts. This money will be equally matched and used to finance an architectural rendering of the proposed restoration project. Cost estimates will be included.
To generate additional revenue, the Committee is pursuing other state and federal grants, conducting fundraisers and accepting donations and membership dues.
The old school building has been renamed Hartselle Fine Arts Center and is being used as a meeting site for the Fine Arts Committee and Hartselle Historical Society.
The auditorium will be used as the setting for the first theatrical production of the newly-organized College Street Players, of which Ed Balch will serve as director. The production cast was selected recently and rehearsals are under way. The play will serve as entertainment for those attending the Spring Benefit.