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Ground is broken for West Jordan cultural arts facility

Members of the community joined city and county dignitaries as well as representatives of arts organizations Wednesday for the groundbreaking ceremony for the West Jordan cultural arts facility.

In attendance were Mayor Kim Rolfe; City Council members Dave Newton, Chris McConnehey, Dirk Burton, and Alan Anderson; Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton; State Representative Cheryl Acton; State Senator Wayne Harper; Arts Council Chair Jen Crabb; Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan Chair Vic Groves; and West Jordan Theater Arts Board Chair Michelle Groves; as well as various city and county staff and interested community members.

In a speech prior to the groundbreaking, West Jordan Arts Council Chair Jen Crabb spoke about the importance of the arts in communities. “Study after study has been done that shows arts in communities bring people together, help people appreciate diverse ideas and diverse cultural phenomena, they help people grow their talents, strengthen a sense of community pride, help people belong to their community or feel connected to their community, and help people learn new skills,” she said. “I’m proud to be part of a community that has such a strong arts presence.”

Crabb addressed the difficulties arts organizations in West Jordan have encountered without a permanent home.

“We’re scrappy. All the different groups have shown that we can create beautiful things whether our resources are large or small – we prefer large, but we often get small. But we make it work. We’ve now put together a non-profit group, the Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan, to make sure that we can continue to grow arts in our culture and our community.

“That being said, it’s time to grow us a little bit further,” Crabbe said. “It’s hard to grow an arts program without a stable home. The few, the small, the might know where to find us, but it’s hard to create a continuing presence when we’re nomadic, when we keep showing up in different places and under different umbrellas. And when people have a hard time tracking down what’s happening in West Jordan, it’s hard to get more volunteers, it’s hard for people to feel that sense of community pride, it’s hard to grow the program. We so appreciate the work that West Jordan City has done to help us build a stable home.”

Crabb was followed by Ken Wheadon of CRSA, the architect and lead designer for the facility. Wheadon was tasked by West Jordan Mayor Kim Rolfe with creating a building that would be “iconic.” Wheadon explained that he tried to meet that expectation by infusing the edifice with a sense of movement, incorporating lights and colors to imitate the glistening of water and cracking of ice.

Dave Newton, former mayor of West Jordan (2006-2010) and current City Council member, recounted the difficult history of the theater in West Jordan, beginning in 1995 when a small group of West Jordan residents put on “Dude Ranch” (which Newton performed in), a Ruth Hale play with a budget of $500. Throughout their time performing in an open-air bowery in what is now Veterans Memorial Park, converting and performing in the old West Jordan sugar factory, and bouncing from venue to venue once the sugar factory was demolished, West Jordan Theater Arts has held out hope for a permanent home.

“I never thought this day would come. It’s been 20 years since we’ve pushed this and worked for this right here, and I didn’t think I was going to be emotional about it, but I am!” Newton said.

Mayor Kim Rolfe thanked those that worked for years to make the cultural arts facility possible.

“For me, this is a great day,” Rolfe said. “I know that everyone here today is happy as I am to see this day come.”

“I’m excited to announce – the biggest thing for me – is this is built with no tax increase,” Rolfe continued, “the funding is available, and there’s no bonding for this facility. This is no small feat. The City Council has work hard to get us to this point that we didn’t have to use those funding sources.”

“I’d like to thank all of those who wrote letters in support of this project. We received letters from the school board members, West Jordan Chamber of Commerce, elected officials (local and state), individuals and families from the community, as well as, I believe, everyone on the Arts Council. Thank you very much to the members of the Arts Council who have given their time and talents to enrich our community.”

Mayor Rolfe also mentioned the part the cultural arts facility will play in the development of West Jordan’s civic center.

“This facility will become a welcome addition, actually, to our city civic center. As you see behind me, City Hall, the county health center, the county library headquarters, the state courthouse, the West Jordan Justice Center, Fire Station #52, the District Attorney’s office, Gene Fullmer Rec Center, the senior center, and the West Jordan Arena. So this is a great addition to that civic center.”

Following the speeches, 18 pre-selected individuals ceremoniously turned over shovelfuls of topsoil with golden shovels.

The 20,000-square-foot facility, which is being built on 2.85 acres of Veterans Memorial Park at 1855 W. 7800 S. in West Jordan, is scheduled to be completed in spring 2019.

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