MHCA finds new home
by Jack Deming
Nov 15, 2012 | 4579 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The former Mountain Park Cinema will house MHCA.
The former Mountain Park Cinema will house MHCA.
DOVER- For the last 16 years, Memorial Hall Center for the Arts Inc. has rented Memorial Hall in Wilmington for their wide array of community-based arts and entertainment. While chairman of the board of directors for MHCA Dan Facilla says performances will continue there through next year, the group is aiming to move their performances to a newly-purchased home.

That new home is just up the road at Mountain Park Plaza in West Dover, in the building that housed Mountain Park Cinema until its closing this past spring. According to Facilla, the new facility will help MHCA expand and diversify their performance capabilities, and give the group full control over performance dates and times.

Recently, the group had rented Memorial Hall less frequently, squeezing their performances into a smaller time frame. “Over time we realized we needed to establish some sort of niche for ourselves,” said Facilla. “What we ended up doing was going more and more into professional concerts along with high quality community theater. We were putting on something like 22 event nights in two months, which is a heck of a lot to do. It was something viewed by the board as a sort of service, and that is what we were there for, to bring arts to the community.”

MHCA is planning to renovate the former movie theater into a performance space capable of hosting film, dance, music, theater, art, and exhibitions. The goal is to have 80% of the 4,000-square-foot building’s floor space flat to accommodate any and all events, and make the venue easily interchangeable on a nightly basis.

The group is hoping to acquire an updated projector, and use the building over the winter months as a movie theater for select nights and select films, while still using Memorial Hall for live performances during the summer. “If you have a set of movies that appeal to people, and you pick a specific day, almost exclusively that people can plan for, it brings a ‘please come and join us’ atmosphere,” says Facilla. “This area doesn’t have the population to support bringing in first rate movies on a regular basis, so I’m looking into how this can serve the community in a novel way, different than what they’re doing in movie theaters in larger demographics.”

The group is currently in the application process for securing a loan from the US Department of Agriculture that would provide the green light to begin renovations. The group also held dinner and music fundraisers over the summer to help buy the building. Facilla is hoping to hire an architect with experience specific to theaters, to make MHCA’s dream come together.

While owning their own building is more expensive than previous endeavors, Facilla says the new facility is exciting for MHCA. “The primary reason for buying a building is to be in control of our destiny. With our own building we once again are harking back to our community, winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s the first time in 16 years we have our own building.”

MHCA, which is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, was formed in 1997 by Peggy Hayes, Julie Lineberger, and Tim McKay with one goal: engage the community in arts. That community has spread past Wilmington to surrounding states including members in New Hampshire, New York, and Massachusetts.

Facilla, who joined the group in 1997, says there are folks as far south as South Carolina who keep up with the group’s schedule. The group has also held events at Mount Snow, always using the credo “offer arts for all.”

“The whole idea of the 501(c)(3) concept is that we strive to bring the best quality show to the audience, at a modest price. We reach out and seek the artists that we think will sell in our marketplace, and in time we’ve created an audience not just in the valley but further.”

While MHCA is undergoing a rebirth, Facilla says the vision of the board is exactly as it started out. “We envisioned the community rallying around the arts and joining in on the activities going on at the art center, and we always strive to find new ways to continue that goal. We are the center for the arts, and for 16 years we’ve stood for quality and excellence in performance and exhibition, and we strove to bring that at a modest price.”

Facilla says MHCA has never been in it for money, and they intend to bring the same mentality to their new home in Dover.
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