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December 06. 2012 10:58PM

Derry Arts Council looks to improve Opera House

DERRY - Improved parking and a full-time employee to help oversee the operation of the Derry Opera House at the Adams Memorial Building could help the Greater Derry Arts Council bring in more profitable shows to the performance space.

During a workshop meeting at the town-owned Adams Memorial Building earlier this week, representatives from three of the organizations leasing space at the building from the town stated they would like to stay in the building.

In addition to the arts council, the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and the Derry Housing and Redevelopment Authority are currently tenants-at-large at the building.

Town Administrator John Anderson said the three groups are interested in three-year leases, but he is trying to structure it so that the leases for the organizations all run through the same time frame.

Members of the arts council were asked about the possibility of increasing the use of the opera house and what could be done to achieve that goal.

For arts council trustees, the number one issue with the site and location is parking.

Trustee Mark Beland said that for many shows, the performers are at the opera house early to prepare, taking up spaces near the building.

"By the time the audience shows up to see the show, they are parking three or four blocks down the street," said Beland.

Those who do park closer to the building are not always parking legally, he said, sometimes blocking local businesses or taking up spaces in the neighboring Veterans Hall.

On one occasion, Beland said he had to stop a show in order to prevent people from having their cars towed from the Veterans Hall lot.

While stating there are no plans in the works to build additional parking downtown, Councilor Brian Chirichiello asked whether patrons would be willing to pay a small fee to park for shows.

Former arts council trustee Michael Gendron said parking has been a problem over the years, but also noted that there were other issues that potentially prevent the Opera House from getting more and more profitable performances.

He said there are logistical problems with getting equipment in and out of the building.

"There are some infrastructure issues that need to take place if we want to run this as a major entertainment venue," Gendron said.

Gendron also noted that the Greater Derry Arts Council, which both puts on its own performances and rents the building to other organizations, is a volunteer organization.

"All these people have full-time jobs, and they are trying to maintain the Opera House," he said. "There is no full-time employee like with the chamber of commerce or the recreation department trying to fill the events."

Gendron noted that when he organized the Derry's Got Talent event in the summer, he had to take a week off from work and had a team of 12 volunteers helping him.

Town Councilor David Milz said the town may have to look at how the building is operated and make potential upgrades to the building and the parking situation.


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