Broad River Arts Center opens at Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC

The words of Proverbs 16:9 remind us, “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

Today, Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church is living proof that God’s timing is the best timing and nothing will rush the plans God has for his people.

After 10 years of planning and careful renovation, the activity center of Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC is now housing the newly established Broad River Arts Center, a community arts center.

Church pastor the Rev. Beth Faulk and other church and community leaders were on hand for a special dedication celebration Nov. 5, officially cutting the ribbon for the Broad River Arts Center and culminating 10 long years of dreaming, praying, planning and unexpected delays.

The inklings of a performing arts center began in 2013 when then-pastor the Rev. John Culp asked Fletcher Carter, a deacon in the UMC, to present a stewardship play during worship at Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC. The play’s focus was about thinking outside the proverbial box and using the gifts God gives.

Dr. Greg Boatwright, Virginia Wingard Memorial’s music director, was inspired by the play. He began to think and dream of a Broad River Arts Center that would reach into the community.

Plans began to formulate about what it might look like to renovate the activity center to house such an arts center.

Fast forward 10 years, and renovations finally began during summer 2023.

On Nov. 5, the church celebrated the completion of all the improvements for the space, including new paint, a beautiful staircase, a new state-of-the-art sound booth with hot storage located behind new doors on the landing, a new coat closet with storage under the staircase, rows of theatrical lighting, the placement of a portable stage (thanks to Michael Stroupe, Jim Browning and Neal Asman), improved overall existing lighting with new dimmers, new heavy foyer doors to control street noise, a new pass-through door from the kitchen to access the carpeted dressing room, numerous electrical outlets for the makeup tables, and in the kitchen a new fan to circulate air when people are cooking.

On Dec. 10, the center will host its inaugural concert when the Palmetto Mastersingers will present a concert of Christmas and seasonal songs under the direction of Bruce Hall.

The activity center was the original building for worship until the sanctuary was built at Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC. For 70 years, it has been home to a myriad of purposes including a gymnasium for basketball, a meeting space for various community groups, a space for church meals, a gathering place for Bible studies, special programs, the Daytimers group, leaders of the Alston Wilkes Society, local voting, concerts, and contemporary worship.

The Broad River Arts Center has a seven-member Board of Advisors comprising church members and people related to the arts. It will continue to offer a variety of events throughout the year. The board is planning for two theatrical plays and two musicals each year as well as special speakers, piano concerts and other performing arts shows in order to draw people of all ages to the campus of Virginia Wingard Memorial.

Virginia Wingard Memorial and the arts center extend deep thanks to SEED Architecture, ETI Electrical Engineering, Mashburn Construction Company, DNB Electrical, Gattis Pro Audio, Productions Unlimited Inc, Southern Staircase, Palmetto Decorators and FloorCo Inc. for all the expertise they brought to the table to create this newly renovated, multiuse space. Thanks are also extended to the Building Committee, Ed Abston, Jane Andrews-Nicol, Frank Selman and Ceylle Stroupe who helped make decisions for the renovations to get off the ground. Much appreciation also goes to Jane Andrews-Nicol who has faithfully maintained the lines of communication between everyone involved to ensure that all lists were checked off to completion.

All monies donated to BRAC by members and friends of Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC and given by The Kendall Foundation have helped to cover almost all the costs of the great renovations.

Faulk said the church looks forward to all the ways the Broad River Arts Center will reach out into the community with the light of Christ.

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