LARGO — Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new Center for Performing Arts, which kicked off a series of inaugural weekend events on Sept. 26.
“It’s absolutely fabulous,” said PGCC Vice President of Enterprise Technology Rhonda Spells-Fentry, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I’m really excited about all the technology that we have in this building and how we will be able to showcase the hard work to Prince George’s County.”
The ceremony brought together mainly PGCC faculty and staff, development partners such as Turner Construction, community leaders and county councilmembers including Derrick Leon Davis (District 6), Jolene Ivey (District 5) and Council Chair Todd Turner.
The Center for Performing Arts replaced the school’s old performing arts facility, the Queen Anne Fine Arts Building, which was built in 1967 and was one of the original four buildings of the school, said Executive Director of Facilities Management David Mosby.
“When the building was first opened, Queen Anne was a modern facility that served the faculty, students and the community well,” Mosby said. “However, as time progressed, with a limited number of new improvements that took place, the facility was deemed insufficient for current campus needs.”
The Center for Performing Arts is substantially larger than the Queen Anne Performing Arts Building at 173,618 square feet, Mosby said. The $85.7 million building is now the largest building on the PGCC Largo Campus.
The new building took five years to complete and resolved a lot of critical problems with the Queen Anne Performing Arts Building.
Space had been one of the main issues that PGCC faced with the old building as it was dominated by their 800-seat auditorium, which left very little space for things like instruction.
Spells-Fentry said the new building is a significant improvement over the old one.
“It was a really small building, and it really didn’t provide us with an opportunity to really, sort of, fully engage the community and our students in the arts,” she said of the Queen Anne Performing Arts Building. “Now we’re able to have dance programs, choral programs, different places for students to rehearse performances.”
The building had been 47 years old when construction began and was outdated and facing deterioration, Mosby said. Now the Center for Performing arts contains modern upgrades such as elevators and a wheelchair lift.
“We are thrilled with our completed building,” Mosby said. “The craftsmanship and quality of construction are exceptional.”
The Center for Performing Arts has the chance to provide opportunities for students of all ages outside of PGCC. Davis said the new center serves as a “pipeline” of education for students from Pre-K through their community college years.
“This is the pipeline to give our youth the opportunity to perform in world-class facilities, to get training for world-class opportunities,” Davis said.
Bishop McNamara High School President Marco Clark called the center a great opportunity for students throughout the county and mentioned that he would like to see the students at his school perform there.
“I think our county deserves the best,” Clark said. “I’m just proud of the fact that Dr. (Charlene) Dukes is a strong leader, not only in this county but really nationally, and now for us to see the fruits of all of her hard work for the team that’s here, to create a premier center for our county is extraordinary.”
With the new space that the Center for Performing Arts provides, the school already has weekly events lined up to be held in the center for the next few months. Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the weekend consisted of four inaugural performances to break in the new center.
One of those was the Xfinity 1 Voice Regional Gospel Showcase, which took place on Sept. 28.
That event was created as a way to celebrate the breadth of outstanding local talent within African-American houses of worship in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as highlight key faith-based initiatives that bring the community together. Four finalists performed for a chance to win $5,000.
“The Xfinity 1 Voice Regional Gospel Showcase was a great opportunity to bring the community together while showcasing some outstanding local talent within houses of worship in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.,” said Janet Uthman, Comcast vice president of Inclusion and Multicultural Marketing.
“We congratulate our winner, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, and thank our celebrity judges and other guests.”
The other three gospel groups who made the finals were from First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Hyattsville, Fort Washington Baptist Church in Fort Washington and Chester L. Burke & Company Ministry in Washington, D.C.
The event also featured performances from acclaimed gospel singers Fred Hammond, Kierra Sheard, Deitrick Haddon and Tim Bowman Jr.
Other events of the weekend included a stand-up comedy show featuring comedians Nate Jackson, Rip Michaels and Jeremy Alsop. Another was the 24th annual Bluebird Blues Festival, headlined by Vanessa Collier and featuring performances by Jesi Terrell, Memphis Gold and Full Power Blues. The event also hosted workshops and discussions.
The weekend closed out with a jazz concert presented by Lake Arbor Prince George’s Cultural Arts Foundation, Inc. which featured singers Avery Sunshine and Chelsea Green and the Green Project.