A BRIEF HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE HOMESTEAD CENTER FOR THE ARTS
“We want Homestead to be known as a cultural center for the arts,” explained Captain Mike Gallagher, first vice president of the Homestead Center for the Arts. These words soon became the mantra for the fledgling arts group.
According to Marion Archer, president of the newly formed arts group, the idea for the center was conceived 2 years before by the Homestead Art Club. Other organizations—the Harlequin Players ( a local theater group), the Homestead Community Concerts Association, and the Margaret Mills Music Club—soon took a vital interest in the project and the collaboration resulted in the birth of the Homestead Center for the Arts. The Center was chartered by the state as a nonprofit organization on October 25, 1976. The initial membership included 66 individuals.
Aside from local support for the new center, the project was recognized nationally by the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Association which called it “a project of lasting significance.”
The new organization came before the Homestead City Council on January 24, 1977 to request the use of the city-owned property between the Chamber of Commerce Building and the City Hall. The original plan was to build a permanent, nonprofit facility to house and promote cultural interests associated with the arts.
By resolution, the City of Homestead donated the land. The project was meant to be part of a civic center concept involving the Center for the Arts, a new library, the Chamber of Commerce building, City Hall and the Armory. These structures would surround a large park with walkways and foliage.
Homestead architect Allan Ira Bass donated his time and expertise to draw up the plans. The plans included a 2,000-seat auditorium, an art gallery, a 250 seat intimate theater and workshops for all art forms. The auditorium would be the permanent home of the Community Concerts Association which had sold out its 1,500 subscriptions and was limited by available space at local high school auditoriums.
The completed Homestead Center for the Arts was meant to serve as a beacon for the arts and artists that would light an area that had been culturally deprived for many years. Unfortunately, art complexes don’t come cheaply. The price tag for Homestead’s center was $1.5 million. A portion of this was to come from federal, state, and local grants as well as the community.
Among the largest obstacles to the creation of the center came from Hurricane Andrew. Afterwards, Center for the Arts members found it necessary to reassess the organization’s goals and objectives.
The Center for the Arts now is an umbrella and supporting organization for local arts and community groups or a “center without walls.” But, the visionary efforts of the charter members continue to be an inspiration to all who recognize the importance the arts play in our community.
The charter board officers were:
Marion Archer, President
Mrs. Herb Bryan
Bertha N. Hausman
Elizabeth S. Gentner
Jeanne M. Martin
Mrs. Orville Schaefer
Allan Ira Bass