BY DEBBIE PAGE
After a series of events and videos from and within the community broadened Statesville Housing Authority’s views about engaging neighbors and demonstrated the importance of providing an outlet to assist in exploring and finding individual purpose, Director of Finance and Administration Donald Hicks and SHA staff initiated what evolved into an art-centered campus, which broke ground at the corner of McElwee Street and Shelton Avenue on Thursday morning.
“Over the last couple of years we held meetings with the local art community groups, many of whom are represented today, and collectively designed what we call the Art Hub and Campus,” said Hicks.
“During COVID-19 we still met with our architect and the local art coalition, tweaking the design and ideas so that we could get the plans approved by the city and county.”
“This building and its greater campus will provide a skills development component for participants to learn, through internships with professionals and entrepreneurs, about music, radio, film, drama, fine art, graphic art, welding and metal art and include the background career opportunities that support these disciplines.”
Hicks said the campus will also be an asset to the downtown, “bringing a lifestyle component to the greater community to provide art, music, film, and stage experiences for the Statesville community.”
Art enhances community members’ lives as they perform their daily tasks and travels.
The three-story building will be the focal point of the campus, housing a 200-seat music hall on the main floor. The center seats will slope to the stage, and the outer edge seating will be at stage level, which will allow versatile use options.
The second floor will incorporate seven individual artist studios and learning rooms, with an open middle area designated for group activities or art shows.
The third floor will house a fully functioning recording studio and multiple music practice rooms. The studio will also facilitate both audio and visual recording of main floor events.
The building behind the Hub houses the Fire Art discipline, which Banshee Metal, a blacksmith craft business, operates.
The campus will also include an activity field complete with a walking path that will run the length between the rail line and Wise Street.
An amphitheater is planned for the east corner of Wise and the closed portion of Mulberry Street.
The skate park to be constructed on the western corner of Wise Street and the closed portion of Mulberry Street may seem odd for an art campus, Hicks said, but the vast majority of skateboarders also pursue various artistic disciplines.
Parking for all of this activity will be along McElwee to Allison Street, complete with new sidewalks, a park area with sculptures, and a parking lot. The project will add 120 new spaces for a total of 200.
IMPROVING COMMUNITY MEMBERS’ QUALITY OF LIFE
In the Fall of 1995, a property deed transfer between the City of Statesville and the Housing Authority exchanged SHA’s previous office at the corner of Meeting and Bell Street with what is now the current SHA campus on Allison Street.
“That day SHA embarked upon a new journey to fulfill our mission: to provide affordable, quality housing for low to moderate income persons and to improve their quality of life,” said Hicks.
“The last 25 years has witnessed a transformational path generated by capital investments across the Statesville community of more than $30 million.”
Hicks thanked present and past SHA Board members who provided “guidance, support and the freedom for exploration and implementation of ideas to improve the lives of those we serve and the greater community.”
“This morning we add an invigorated mission in our journey that centers directly to improving the quality of life through workforce development, life skills, economic vitality and for the betterment of social interaction and career opportunities. This one campus will promote multiple economic and social attributes for the entire community.”
Though the community talks a lot about creating programs, activities and events for youth in this community, Hicks said one word should be added to this goal: purpose.
“The dictionary tells us the meaning of this word is ‘the reason something exists, an intended end; aim; or goal.’ It creates meaning, offers a sense of direction and helps guide our paths, behavior, and our goals.”
“Effects of this word tend to cause increased optimism, resiliency, hope, joy, happiness satisfaction, and better physical health. It has the power to define our life.”
Hicks described sitting in the SHA lobby prior to his fourth interview for an SHA job 25 years ago and being fully drawn into the organization’s mission as he watched a moment occurring between a young girl and her mom.
“As I observed the interaction, something spoke to me that no one gets to choose to whom or where you are born or the circumstances you face that are out of your control, but everyone should have access to the opportunity to live their best life.”
“You see, this agency operates for that purpose, being a conduit and providing that access.”
Hicks believes that the center will develop future community ambassadors and leaders.
“With this campus concept, we believe it to be the gateway of opportunity to positively alter you, me, and our neighbors in the whole community, whether by steering existing interests into an exploration of purpose, initiating a better life, and pursuing career opportunities.”