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Supporters of Devils Lake fine arts center look at pared-down plans

DEVILS LAKE -- Supporters of an $8.95 million fine arts center will consider rebranding the facility and will meet Nov. 8 to look at pared-down versions of the plan. Voters narrowly rejected in March a bond measure that would have paid for the pr...

Voters leave the Memorial Building in downtown Devils Lake after casting their vote for a Fine Arts Center at the high school on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 in Devils Lake, N.D. The center will cost $8.95 million (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)
Voters leave the Memorial Building in downtown Devils Lake after casting their vote for a Fine Arts Center at the high school on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 in Devils Lake, N.D. The center will cost $8.95 million (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

DEVILS LAKE - Supporters of an $8.95 million fine arts center will consider rebranding the facility and will meet Nov. 8 to look at pared-down versions of the plan. Voters narrowly rejected in March a bond measure that would have paid for the project.

Scott Privratsky, superintendent of Devils Lake Public Schools, said post-election surveys indicated people thought the project was too expensive and "they felt that fine arts was too uppity, upscale or too elitist."

"They thought we should change the name," Privratsky said. "We're going to possibly call it something different, but whether that becomes just a school addition, an auditorium or a performance center, we're going to let the committee decide that."

The proposed 28,000-square-foot center would include an auditorium and connect the Devils Lake High School with the Lake Area Career and Technology Center. Students now have to walk between the two buildings for classes, and that creates several concerns.

"It's a safety hazard and a cold-weather issue," said Lara Prozinski, coordinator of the Devils Lake Public Schools Development Fund. "It's a security issue, too."

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Split on name

Prozinski said the committee is open to exploring cuts to the plan but so far has been split on the idea of changing the name.

"It's going to be an auditorium, and it's going to house the fine arts. Some people might have been turned off by (the name), but that's basically what it is," she said. "I don't think we want to shift gears too much so people get confused and think it's a completely different project.

"It's a place for community events and educational events. It's all-encompassing, but the main focus is for our kids in the arts to have a place to perform. It really is a place for them to call home."

The school's band, choir and orchestra currently perform in the school's cafeteria, and the drama students must perform either there or borrow time at Lake Region State College.

That often means students must rush to build sets the day before performances because the college has so many other activities scheduled throughout the year.

"It's really kind of a scheduling mess," Prozinski said.

Privratsky said architects already prepared two rough drafts that pare down various parts of the plan. One version strips the project down to the basics, leaving out the drama classroom and television production room, Prozinski said. It also takes out practice rooms for band, choir and orchestra.

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"It's making it more chewable for voters, I guess, but in Devils Lake I think we sometimes do things bare bones and say, well some day we're going to add on this. ... If we would have done the auditorium back when the school was built, it would have been less than a million dollars, and now it's way up there."

Both Prozinski and Privratsky are confident organizers will reach the right middle ground for a successful vote as soon as next spring.

Until then, Prozinski says the Devils Lake Public Schools Development Fund will continue to raise private donations. The group already has raised more than $500,000, and at least two major fundraisers are coming up.

"I'm very confident it's going to pass. I think people are more informed now and are going to get more involved in the process this time," she said. "If we can't do the top-notch one, it would be nice to do at least the middle-ground one. I think it's a necessity."

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