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New Arts Center nears completion

A new Surry Arts Council building on Rockford Street has slowly taken shape since construction started in September 2021, with the project now to the point where Mount Airy officials will get a grand tour this week.

“We do have the certificate of occupancy,” said Tanya Jones, executive director of the arts group, referring to a permitting document deeming the multi-purpose facility as having cleared inspection hurdles to allow its use.

“All the things that are required for safety and compliance,” Jones added last week of the regulatory procedures involved.

However, it’ll be a little while longer until the new Arts Center is ready for daily business, with the executive director saying “a couple more months of work” is required to reach that juncture after a long period of planning and preparation.

“There’s a lot of work that has been talked about for 10 years,” Jones said.

As an example of where the facility now stands in terms of being occupied, “zero furniture” has been moved into it so far, she said.

In the meantime, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners and other municipal officials are scheduled to have a walk-through of the building on Thursday. The board’s last meeting on Jan. 19 was recessed until then, with the sneak peek to precede a regular meeting Thursday at 6 p.m.

The city government has a vested interest in the new structure, including allocating $700,000 for the facility that has been projected to cost $3.5 million.

Although its development is being spearheaded and will be occupied by the Surry Arts Council for programming and other uses, the building located at 215 Rockford St. sits on municipal property in a cluster of other city-owned sites. These include the public library; Blackmon Amphitheatre; the Andy Griffith Playhouse complex, where the arts staff is based now; and the Municipal Building.

Plans call for the Arts Center to become another holding of the city government once finished. It in turn will lease the facility to the Surry Arts Council for 25 years while also maintaining the structure, under an agreement forged in 2020.

“Punch-list items” remain

The multi-purpose Arts Center has around 6,000 square feet.

It contains space for classrooms, meetings and exhibits along with a Siamese Twins component including a museum honoring the conjoined pair Eng and Chang Bunker who were born in what is now Thailand and eventually migrated to Surry County.

A need to accommodate artist and scholar presentations additionally has been mentioned as part of the mix.

The facility also will include office space for Surry Arts Council staff members who presently occupy cramped quarters at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.

Public restrooms are another component of the new multi-purpose structure that awaits a few more steps to become fully functional.

“There are a number of punch-list items,” Jones said of a slate of remaining tasks typically accompanying a construction project.

This includes infrastructure elements such as internet and telephone components still to be installed which are required for office operations. “Cables have to be run,” Jones explained.

“Very, very exciting”

The Surry Arts Council is gratified that the facility finally has come together.

“It’s very, very exciting,” Jones said of the process. “I’m so proud of what we have done.”

The plans have been tweaked here and there to get the project within the available funding frame while still having a fine finished project, the Surry Arts Council official indicated.

“It exceeds our expectations as far as utilizing the space we ended up with,” Jones said.

A ribbon-program program for the new building will be scheduled at an appropriate time, she said.



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