Hiwassee auditorium getting makeover

Hiwassee auditorium getting makeover

March 31st, 2013 by Joan Garrett McClane in Local Regional News

Jason Smith, a member of the maintenance crew at Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tenn., lays down flooring for the expansion of the college auditorium's stage. The college received a $250,000 grant to expand and refurbish the performance area. Contributed photo/Hiwassee College

The largest performance space in Monroe County, Tenn., is getting a face-lift thanks to a $250,000 grant from a family foundation.

"The current 949 seats are original to the auditorium when it opened in 1969," Hiwassee College President Robin Tricoli said in a statement. "There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in a relatively short period of time, but we can do it."

The two-year overhaul will preserve acoustics and update aging infrastructure, officials said. New seating, fresh paint, new carpets and updated lighting will give the building a different feel, they said.

The style of seating will change, too. Chairs will be movie-theater style and maroon. Other changes will make the auditorium more accessible for handicapped patrons.

Fundraising, spearheaded by the Monroe Area Council for the Arts, started last summer and the grant from the Clayton Family Foundation is a major boost to efforts. More than $100,000 has been raised from the community as well, organizers say.

For students at Hiawassee College, a revamped auditorium could mean better classes, better events and better community participation with the college.

Speakers are hosted there. Theater classes test their skills on the stage. High schools come for quiz bowls and competitions. Plays and concerts draw crowds on the weekend.

Students pushed for the fundraising and are elated the grants are coming in.

"It's important that we have an appealing and comfortable atmosphere," said Carmen Conner, a freshman majoring in business at the Methodist liberal arts college. "We really care about the beauty of our campus."

Contact staff writer Joan Garrett at jgarrett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6601. Follow her on Twitter at @JoanGarrettCTFP.