NORCROSS — During Monday night’s Policy Work Session meeting in Norcross, Tanya Caldwell of Lionheart Theatre and jewelry store owner Anna Balkan gave a presentation to the Norcross City Council.
The two wanted to rent a portion of the Old Cotton Gin to create the Lionheart Performing Arts Center.
On Thursday afternoon, Caldwell had a set of keys for the building in her hand.
“It’s exciting, but scary,” she said.
About three months ago, the staff at the Lionheart put a bid on the rectory next to the theater, but were denied access to the aging building.
“We do shows and a summer camp, but we only have the one building,” Caldwell said. “We don’t teach anything because we don’t have the room.”
After the idea didn’t work out for the rectory, Lionheart thought it had lost out on additional space. That was until Balkan contacted Caldwell about the Old Cotton Gin.
“(Anna) called me and said, ‘What if you pay the month for the year?’” Caldwell said. “I asked, ‘What’s in it for you?’ She has a child who attended a camp, who really came out of the shell. She has money, wants to give back and is interested in the arts. We’ve become partners. She doesn’t want any creative control. She wants to help for the first year with the money.”
Now it’s full steam ahead for the Lionheart Performing Arts Center. Caldwell and her crew started cleaning out the 2,300-square-foot area leased for them in the historic building Thursday night. It is across the street from the Lionheart Theatre.
Caldwell said that the new space will be used to teach classes for people of all ages.
“We’re starting out small,” she said. “The classes will be in the evenings and on Saturdays for now at six week incriments.”
There is an open house Aug. 10, where people can register for classes. The selection includes improv, introduction to acting, speaking, monologues and more.
“We’ll even have a beginning tap class for adults eventually,” Caldwell said.
The staff plans to have everything ready to go by Aug. 17 — but first, they need to give the space a face-lift. The venue needs a desk, ceiling fans, track lighting, two refrigerators, shelves, benches, tables and a microwave. If you can help, email Caldwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If people don’t have that, but would like to help, we are also taking donations,” she said.
The Performing Arts Center is holding its first fundraiser Sept. 20-21 in the form of a murder mystery dinner.
Lionheart Theatre will also stay open for performances. For more information about Lionheart, visit www.lionhearttheatre.org.