First, a little history.
It was back in the year 1998 or so, when local artist Sunny Ruthchild, owner of Gardens and SunSpaces located in the old Grange building on Main Street, eyed an old, unused former dairy barn just south of town (the Thayer barn) and saw in her mind a vision of what it could be – a special place for art, music and culture.
The possibilities were endless. At the time, the circa 1930s barn was still in decent shape, just needing a new roof to keep the ravages of time and weather at bay. The idea took off and townspeople, artists and dreamers began to make big plans. Duvall Foundation for the Arts (DFA) members spearheaded a campaign to save the historic structure, the big push beginning in 2003. A small group of musicians did a practice performance in the loft, announcing afterward that the acoustics were outstanding.
The city stated it would get behind the project, pledging $200,000 in its 2003 budget if DFA could demonstrate public support by raising $100,000 by a May 1, 2003 deadline. That money would be set aside to pay for the first phase of the project, estimated to cost $300,000. The first phase would include moving the barn a couple hundred feet to make room for the construction of Duvall Village, a 10-acre mixed use development. Newhall-Jones, the owner of the property, agreed that when their site plans were approved and they were ready to move ahead with developing the property they would deed the barn and future barn site (approximately one-third of an acre) to the city. The community did their part by successfully coming together and raising the money through a series of fund-raising events and activities. DFA celebrated by offering a toast to the future of the barn.
Then nothing happened.
Newhall-Jones had put their development on hold, “indefinitely,” the arts group was told. Then in February of 2007 the city announced a revised plan for the property had been approved that did not include the Thayer barn, the land to move it onto, or a community arts center. The city’s position was that officials were concerned that the remodeling effort could “run into the millions and … that the city would be responsible.”
DFA was then forced to write a letter to supporters that said, in part, “What this means for those who had the vision of a Community Arts Center in this historic icon is that it is not to be.” Lin McBride, former DFA president, said at the time that DFA still had all the funds that were raised and was holding them in an account designated for the arts center.
DFA members refused to let the dream die however, and continued to try to save the structure. A canvas cover was placed over it to protect it from the rain. But it was all for naught. The barn eventually began to collapse and Cook Structural Movers was hired to take it apart and salvage the pieces. By that time, DFA, seeing the handwriting on the wall, had already begun making plans for a new structure, with hopes of using the pieces of the old barn as non-structural components. The new building is planned to look similar to the original barn.
Fast forward to 2018. Duvall Village (under a new contractor) is back on track and on Tuesday, June 12, a groundbreaking for the new Duvall Cultural & Performing Arts Center took place at the corner of SR 203 and NE 143rd (the location of the old barn). Tina Koch, DFA president, took note of all the projects DFA is involved with, including SandBlast, Art in Bloom and scholarships. “This year is full of projects,” she said. “DFA is honored to provide this space for the arts center.”
King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who was an early supporter of the arts center, reminded those in attendance of the work it took to get to where the project is today. She recalled that, as part of the then-fundraising campaign, she was one the many who were “kidnapped” and had to call people to bail them out of “jail,” adding that, “With any vision we have to revision. This is a partnership with DFA, City of Duvall, King County and 4Culture, a venture which was sparked by the love of barns and the need for places for the community to spend time together to enjoy the arts.”
Wendy Pautz, lead architect with LMN Architects, said she and fellow architect Cameron Irwin are working on preliminary conceptual ideas that will work with the function of the building. “We are working on a broad variety of ideas that will be welcoming to everyone, looking at the agricultural past and taking it into the future. The firm has worked on performing arts projects for 20 years, including Benaroya Hall and McCaw Hall. But this will be the first art project that began as a barn.”
Debra Twersky, acting director of 4Culture, stated the agency has provided funding to arts and preservation for over 40 years. “This is what perseverance looks like,” she said. “The agency supported this idea early on and more recently with an emergency grant to disassemble the barn and money to cover the old barn, to develop the new outdoor area for the new Duvall Cultural & Performing Arts Center and hire LMN Architects to refine the design of the new building. We have offered brick and mortar support to hundreds of arts projects throughout the county. At the beginning we provided short-term emergency funds and helped dismantle and cover the structure. This has been a great vision of a cultural center. We have listened to the community and helped their dreams come true. This has been a long time coming.”
Accomplishing this goal has been a complicated and lengthy process. The core DFA volunteer team has been meeting weekly to develop the project since summer of 2014. More volunteers are always welcome, said board member Elizabeth Hill, who explained the current situation in an email. “DFA has a contract with the current property owner, Westcott Homes, and the City of Duvall that provides DFA with a parcel of property for the Duvall Cultural & Performing Arts Center as soon as the subdivision of the land occurs in January 2020. This summer the land for the overall development which includes the Duvall Cultural & Performing Arts parcel will be cleared and graded. In the summer of 2019 the utilities, entry road, parking lot, rain gardens and grass lawn will be installed. The parcel is expected to be available for outdoor use in summer of 2020.”
Hill explained that DFA will own the building and partner with other arts organizations to create a living cultural center for the enjoyment of the Valley residents and surrounding community. “The estimated total project costs have been about $10 million. DFA is currently working with LMN Architects to update the cost estimate and is continuing to apply for grants and donations to fund the building and looking for more volunteers to help with fund-raising events.”
For more information and updates, visit duvallarts.org.