New Arts building to boost Spokane economy

by Sarah Stephens

Area residents will soon be watching their neighbors perform on stage, thanks to a new performing arts center, the Idaho Central Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center. The multi-million-dollar project, a vision long awaited by Yvonne A K Johnson, Executive Artistic Director of the Spokane Valley Summer Theatre, is coming to life in Spokane Valley.

Johnson is also the CEO of Johnson Theatrical Management.

The Idaho Central Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center (ICSVPAC) broke ground in August 2022. Facility construction is anticipated in late January or February 2023 with an expected completion date in the summer of 2024.

Idaho Central Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center

Idaho Central Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center – Rendering

According to the website, “the building will be just off the I-90 corridor between Evergreen and Sullivan. It will be in the new Mirabeau neighborhood, next door to the east of the Tru by Hilton. There will be 300 free parking spaces for theater patrons.”

Inspiration behind the project was sparked by the successful 2016 launch of the Spokane Valley Summer Theatre (SVST). The SVST will become the resident theater company at the facility as it is consistently producing high quality summer musical theater and setting new attendance records every year.

According to Capital Campaign Director, Georgia Oxford, “Spokane has no shortage of talent, and a professional theater is important because it will expand career opportunities for prospective and current actors.” Oxford said, “In the new theater, in the studio space, we are hoping to accommodate about 800 students a year.

According to the campaign’s website, “ICSVPAC will provide year-round programming on multiple stages, employing hundreds of artists, musicians, technicians and staff.”

The Conservatory will provide professional theater education for students in second through twelfth grade.

Area Schools provide several sports opportunities outside of school, but not for artistic students.

At the present time, parents of artistic children are limited to hiring private coaches or putting their children in community theater. The ICSVPAC will provide opportunities to generations of Inland Northwest kids looking to get into competitive college programs, affording the opportunity to participate in larger markets like television, film, and Broadway.

Oxford said, “right now it’s a challenge because we have to wait until school is out for the summer to be on the main stage area. Auditions and casting begin in February and summer performances begin in June.”

Oxford said the multipurpose building will provide a training ground for potential talent and also serve as a professional paid theater in which aspiring talent can perform and perfect their skills.

According to Dr. Rorholm, managing director of the project and center, the members involved in the forty-eight-million-dollar project have raised $22.5 million in cash and pledges in less than two years.

Dr. Rorholm said “There are currently no locally produced professional performing arts, only national tours, in which ticket purchases do not benefit the Spokane economy. She said there is also community theater, which is a volunteer effort and does not benefit the local economy either.

The facility will feature a state of the art performing arts center housed in a 59,000 square foot facility. The theater building will be home to a 480-seat main stage, a 200-seat flexible studio theater, an acting conservatory for area youth, and an event and business meeting space. According to The National Endowment of the Arts, the theater will have multiple benefits to the region artistically and economically. The facility is projected to bring in $32 to the local economy for every dollar spent on watching live acts.

According to Oxford, “the professional theater will benefit the region economically, in the form of eating out, paying a sitter, local shopping, and hotel stays.”

Oxford says not only will it have an economic impact on the community, but also touch a lot of lives. She said students will like having year-round opportunities to perform outside of school. She said it is also about “just having the opportunity for more arts and culture in the region.”

She said this opportunity is very important “because people being able to stay in the area and be an actor, an actress, a musician, and have a job locally benefits the region.” The aspiring actors and actresses of the ICSVAPC will have paid opportunities and can keep their families in the region instead of moving to cities like Hollywood and New York. According to Oxford, aspiring actors and actresses will “get paid and they can keep their families here.”

At the present time, the Spokane Valley Summer Theatre will begin offering performances in June after graduation. The Summer Theatre will be offering classics such as Grease and Escape to Margaritaville. The ICSVPAC plans to host its first professional theater production in the summer of 2024. Tickets for these on-going performances will be $40 for a standard ticket and performances can last several weeks. Student, senior and military discounts are also available, affording everyone the opportunity to enjoy the arts.

Community members can get involved in the project by donating money, adding their family or business name, and attending productions. “It truly is a legacy project to carry on your family name, your business name.” Oxford pointed out that because the project is a non-profit, there are tax benefits for donors. Oxford said she will have a booth at community events. At these events she will be talking to the public about how they can contribute to the project.