Project nearing completion

Hardy Hall update to be revealed at Ramsdell’s annual gala

Habitat for Humanity volunteers take on the final portion of phase one, but they soon will begin to drywall. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — With a week and a half left until the annual fundraiser, Hardy Hall renovations at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts (RRCA) are in full force, but there is still plenty of work to complete.

Xavier Verna, RRCA executive director, said they are finishing up phase one with the help of Manistee Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

“Right now, we have finished the longest phase of this project, that’s everything from building out the frames for the new wall space and putting up the new walls, which means all of the electrical work was done,” he said. “We are at the stage where we are getting ready for drywall.”

The new space will feature a concessions window that will be housed in the old volunteer office, which Verna said was rarely in use. During events, people will now be able to order drinks and food from the concessions window.

Adding concessions, he said, will eliminate the need to set up tables that occupy a lot of space in Hardy Hall.

“What was our volunteer office had a bay window at one point,” Verna said. “That eliminates any extra tables and refrigerators from being in the room. Also, it eliminates having to move things in and out because all of the storage stays in one place.”

Bill Hattendorf, who is on the RRCA board of directors, said the project is being completed in response to the community of artists who provided feedback on how Hardy Hall could be improved. In the past, some artists were apprehensive to show their work at the RRCA for various reasons.

“We have a great community of artists in Manistee County — it’s incredible,” he said. “We are doing our best and we are doing it for them, which would in turn help us and would help our community.”

This month, the RRCA held a fundraising event for the renovations, which brought in $3,000. The total for the project is around $12,000.

“People were very surprised to see the exact extent for the renovations, and they were very impressed,” Hattendorf said. “They had no idea it was going to be so gallery like.”

“The impact that those dollars are making, the ones we solicited a few weeks ago, is huge. It’s going to realize the project with materials. We really appreciate the support,” Verna added.

Holding the fundraiser gave local artists and residents a chance to view the progress. Verna said the project has been a huge task, which they could not have done without community support.

“Even those who did not give, they showed up and saw what we were up to,” Verna said.  “A lot of times when you see a finished product you do not see what it took to get there, and people saw the bare bones of that room. It is not as simple as taking the red walls down and putting up new sheeting.”

The third annual “Raising the Curtain” gala event, which is slated for 5:30 p.m. on May 4, will be the grand reveal to the public. Verna is confident the work will be completed by then.

The event will include a cocktail hour, silent auction, the Kentucky Derby and entertainment by Third Coast Gypsy Jazz; Carrie and Roger Jazz Duo; and the Interlochen Arts Academy Ballet. Tickets are still available.

“We have been pushing very hard,” he said. “We have had a lot of help from people in the community. Hats off to Habitat for Humanity for being present almost every day and doing a lot of the heavy lifting.”

Paul Glaser, of Manistee Habitat for Humanity, said when they were called to take on this project, they did not even think twice about it.

“We got a call from someone who needed help, and we are slow on our Habitat builds right now so here we are,” Glaser said. “It’s all about helping out.”

The final product, Verna said, will open up new opportunities for both Ramsdell programming and the community as a whole.

“We had a number of people that are dedicated to this project, in creating this new space that’s going to impact the community, visual artists and the community of art lovers,” he said. “Everybody has shown the support we would have hoped to have seen from such a demanding project.

“Now we are going to be attracting a diverse range of artists and making our community of artists happy, because they have a space that they can show their work.”

Another goal of the project, Verna said is to bring more people to the area.

“We are trying to attract a wider audience and generation pool, and try to cultivate that next set of residents that this town needs to thrive,” he said. “We have a lot of people in this town who really care about lifestyle, and that’s really great.”

More information on the fundraiser or gala event can be found on the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts Facebook page, or by calling (231) 398-9770.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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