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Grants for Welder Center improvements expand business possibilities

Oct. 26, 2013 at 5:26 a.m.

The new acoustical shell at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts is seen here at a recent choral performance.

Recent grant-funded improvements to the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts have expanded the center's ability to host musical performances and business presentations.

The Welder Center, owned and operated by Victoria College, received $90,000 for acoustical improvements from the Cloyde and Ethel Lee Tracey Foundation in 2012. The money was used for the installation of an acoustical ceiling on the stage and to improve the sound quality of performances of voice and music, said Sue Prudhomme, Victoria College's director of cultural affairs and manager of the Welder Center.

She said the $80,336 ceiling shell was installed over the summer. The remaining $9,664 was used for design of additional acoustical improvements associated with an audio visual equipment project funded by 2012 Hotel Occupancy Tax funds.

"This expands the possibilities for events that can happen here at the Welder Center," Prudhomme said.

Prior to the improvements, it would take center workers a day to set up a presentation and another day to take it down. This prevented events from occurring at the Center on those days.

The center can now broadcast the video and audio to monitors in the lobby. This includes a paging system for audience members in the lobby and actors in the green room, as well as the capability to broadcast live presentations to remote venues.

The acoustical improvements consist of additional right and left house speakers and amplifiers as well as repositioning existing house speakers to eliminate hot and cold portions of audience audio coverage.

The sound system was first used for Victoria Ballet Theatre's Fall for Dance production.

Another sound improvement is the acoustical shell, essentially a fake ceiling, which was used for the first time at a Victoria College chorus performance Oct. 3.

Panels are lowered from their permanent home in the center's fly loft and cantilevered out. Center officials can decide for each performance at what angle they will be - almost flat or at an angle. Prudhomme said the acoustical shell weighs several thousand pounds and takes at least half a day to put in place.

Another city of Victoria grant for $60,000 will go toward the purchase of an $115,000 film projector. About $12,500 has been committed from other sources toward the projector purchase, leaving the center to raise an additional $42,500. These funds must be spent before Sept. 30, 2014 according to the terms of the grant.

The Welder Center performance hall and facilities are available for rent by performing arts organizations, schools, businesses, nonprofit groups, and area governments.

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