A complete season of arts performances and classes will be offered for residents of South Arlington with the completion next month of renovations to Gunston Junior High School.
The former school building will be used as a joint facility for Arlington adult education, recreation and visual and performing arts programs.
The new use of Gunston reflects a national trend toward finding ways to maintain existing facilities in the community so they continue to benefit area residents, said Kathy Dwyer, supervisor of Arlington County's visual and performing arts section of the recreation division.
The county board and the school board "felt this was a way of keeping the school working for the community," Dwyer said, adding that community and civic organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, supported the joint-use approach.
Cooperation will result in increased community access and participation as well as additional recreational, cultural and educational services to Arlington citizens, whose tax dollars paid for the school in the first place, Dwyer said.
"South Arlington is the most rapidly growing part of the county, with lots of singles and young families. That's our audience, primarily," the arts supervisors said.
"This really represents a kind of breakthrough in terms of shop area, class and rehearsal space we need," Dwyer added.
In addition to administrative offices, the expanded space includes acoustic music rooms, a little theater, a library, a photo lab and a secondary scene shop where visiting groups may construct scenery.
"The interesting thing about the library is that we have a place for lectures, meetings and conferences that we could never offer before. Festivals, too, like the 'sings-outs' the Arlingtones have, we can now host here," Dwyer said. "It will also available for community groups."
There are two other county performing arts facilities, Thomas Jefferson Junior High School and Community Center, located in the central part of Arlington, and Kenmore Junior High School, in the northern section.
Arlington uses a 700-seat theater with limited classroom space at Thomas Jefferson and a 500-seat theater only at Kenmore.
The county relied heavily on use of the former Stewart elementary school as a center for most of its classes plus restricted rehearsal and performance space, but is giving that facility up when it completes the move into Gunston.
The new center will be operational after Labor Day, Dwyer says, but public events will really begin with [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] community opening the weekend of Oct. 27-29.
A series of five plays and five concerts opens with "Curly McDimple," produced by the Fairlington Players, at 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18. The Arlingtones (barbershop harmony) will give a benefit concert at 8 p.m. on Nov. 25.
Arlington's Lydian chamber Players will offer three concerts on Dec. 1, Jan. 19 and April 13 at 8 p.m. each night . The Arlington Metropolitan Chorus will perform on Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.
Fairlington Players will present two more productions, "Lion in Winter," March 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17 and "The Rainmaker," May 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19. All performances are at 8:30 p.m.
The Arlington Players' two shows are "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," March 23, 24, 30, 31 and April 6, 7, and "Play It Again, Sam," May 25, 26, 27, 31 and June 1, 2, 3. Curtain is at 8:30 p.m.
All events are scheduled in the auditorium at Gunston, 2700 S. Lang St., and there is a charge for admission. Phone 684-7271 after Labor Day for more information.