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Performing Center officially opens
Dignitaries from throughout Newton County, including Newton County School Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey, second from Left, Almon Turner, chair of the Board of Education, fourth from left, Buncie Lanners, Executive Director of the Newton County Arts Association, with scissors, Nancy Schulz, District 3 Commissioner, and Ralph Staffins, President of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commers, far right.

A variety of elected officials and staff representing a number of organizations and governing bodies throughout Newton County gathered together for the ribbon cutting of the Porter Memorial Performing Arts Center Wednesday. A large number of people there to cut a piece of fabric was more than just a ceremonial gesture, it was representative of the collaborative effort that led to the realization of a 15-year-long dream.

“The facility is a testimony to working together,” said Buncie Lanners, Executive Director of the Newton County Arts Association said during the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The county’s new civic center was a collaborative effort of the Newton County Board of Commissioners, the Newton County School System Board of Education, the Newton County Arts Association, the Newton County College and Career Academy, voters and the Newton County Arts Association

Newton County School Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey agreed with Lanners, telling The News, “It’s an exciting opportunity for our community,” she said. “It exemplifies all that’s great in our community.”

Fuhrey said when she speaks of the partnership that worked together to create the center, people are amazed.
From the beginning

“You hear all these negative things out in the community, and then you see this,” said Board of Education member Abigail Collins, District 5. “It’s amazing what we can do together.”

Ralph Staffins, president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce said, the performing arts center “makes us a better place to work and play. The way they partnered with us is the best there is.”

Originally part of the old Newton High School campus, the Porter Memorial Auditorium that has been converted into a performing arts center, received $5 million of the 2005 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax monies, and more funding through a special eSPLOST fund to pay for the renovations. The eSPLOST included upgrading the acoustic system, stage, lighting and backstage area and building an add-on that houses green rooms, a performance room, make up rooms, bathrooms and dressing rooms behind the auditorium where old classrooms used to sit.

Named for Olive Swan Porter, the facility was built and dedicated in 1985 as a collaboration between the city of Covington and the school system, with funds donated by the James Hyde Porter Trust.

The unofficial grand opening for the performing arts center was the Oct. 2 when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra played in concert. Fuhrey, who attended Sunday’s concert, said she was sitting next to the symphony’s artistic director, who said the acoustics just resonated.

Following the ribbon cutting, second-grade students arrived at the auditorium to hear a performance by four cellists called, “Hello Cello.”

The annual production of the Nutcracker, as well as musical performances by the Oxford Singers and Chorus, will be at the auditorium this fall and winter.