WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — A huge swell of artistic influence is coming to West Columbia and it's all thanks to a partnership between the city of West Columbia, the Brookland Lakeview Empowerment Center and the Columbia Children's Theatre.
As of last week, the Richland Mall is under new ownership, which means a change for the groups using that space, one of whom is the Columbia Children's Theatre.
So now the theatre is moving to the Brookland Lakeview Empowerment Center, something that's been in the works for years. Jerry Stevenson is the theatre's artistic director and co-founder.
"We're like, oh, this will give us another two, three years, but then when the sale went through they were like we don't want a whole bunch of kids coming onto this property while we're doing demolition, so we're not going to renew your lease," Stevenson said.
Stevenson explains nearly 20 - 25,000 people total are involved with this theatre each year, by attending a show, coming to classes, or being in a show.
Right now the center serves seniors with meals, young children through after school programs, families with a diabetes intervention program, and now they'll add the fine arts to that list.
Cindye Richbourg-Cotton is the executive director of the 93,000 square foot center.
"We're really excited about this partnership with the Columbia Children Theatre and we have similar missions. And both organizations work with children and educating kids and promoting the lives of young people and so we see this as really a perfect partnership," Richbourg-Cotton said.
In addition, the city of West Columbia is providing $155,000 of hospitality tax funds as a part of their revitalization plan to update the center.
"They'll have designated spaces within the facility, within the building and so they'll have their classrooms that they'll be able to use, but they'll probably be some shared spaces as well. And we just will coordinate and scheduling will be beneficial to making this work," Richbourg-Cotton said.
Starting January 30, these kids will start up fine arts classes and rehearsals in their new space.
"This training is going to allow them to go into a job interview and ask for a raise, it's going to allow them to make better presentations in whatever job that they chose to do in the future and I'm just excited about being able to share that with more and more people," Stevenson said.
According to Stevenson, they're hoping to be fully moved into the center and fully operational by the end of August 2023.