Nearly 15 years ago, a group of New Albany community leaders visited the Clark State Community College Performing Arts Center to study what the college and the city of Springfield had done collaboratively.
They were not examining the architecture as much as they were interested in how the partnership was established, how ownership and operations worked and the kinds of cultural and educational programming that were offered.
At that point in time, building the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts was little more than an idea, or perhaps a dream for some. Most of the entourage, comprising members of the New Albany-Plain Local school board, New Albany Village Council, Plain Township trustees, New Albany Community Foundation board and New Albany Chamber of Commerce, probably remained skeptical the project would happen. Some questioned how much a performance venue in New Albany would be used.
The director of the Clark State arts center assured the visitors that if they built a performance facility, it would get used and groups and organizations would form. Despite the "build-it-and-they-will-come" assurance, some remained skeptical.
However, it was a refrain we heard again and again as we visited other venues.
Fast forward to 2019: One of the greatest challenges we face in scheduling events at the McCoy is finding available dates. With all the school performances and events and all the community events, the center is booked completely most months.
Although this is a challenge, it's a great problem to have. In fact, most of the community leaders who worked to realize the dream of the McCoy would tell you the full schedule is "music to their ears" because it reflects how much the community has embraced the center as an asset.
As predicted, community groups formed almost immediately after the McCoy was dedicated. These include the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, the community band, community chorus, the Broadway Jr. series and dance and ballet recitals.
Other programs formed, as well, such as the community foundation's Jefferson Series lectures and the McCoy's Marquee Series.
Even today, another group of community volunteers who are passionate about theater are in the process of forming a community theater group.
It has been remarkable to witness how residents, students and educators have discovered new ways to use the McCoy Center for the benefit of the residents and toward the betterment of the community.
With a new amphitheater coming soon, one can only imagine how our cultural possibilities, as well as community-events possibilities, will flourish even more.
Dennis Welch is the immediate past chairman for the New Albany Community Foundation.