ETSU president Brian Noland thanks General Shale Brick Company for donating 250,000 bricks for the school's performing arts center. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
All in all, it was another 250,000 bricks in the wall Tuesday for East Tennessee State University’s planned fine and performing arts center, but university and General Shale officials weren’t protesting the United Kingdom’s rigid boarding schools.
The Johnson City-based building materials company pledged the quarter-million bricks to the college’s $38 million arts center to further the fundraising efforts initiated last year.
The center, which is planned to include a performance auditorium, a smaller recital hall and room for theater, music and other art instruction, has long been identified as a top priority for university President Brian Noland.
On Tuesday, Noland thanked General Shale’s leadership for the contribution, saying it would help ETSU to continue to be a major driver in the local arts community.
The company has donated approximately 1 million bricks to the university over the years for several building projects, including the carillon, the parking garage, several athletic facilities, the alumni gallery and the Natural History Museum, which bears the company’s name.
“General Shale has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with ETSU for many years, and we are proud to step forward and partner with the university in this significant endeavor,” CEO Dick Green said. “This announcement demonstrates that General Shale is committed to supporting ETSU as it strives to generate opportunities for the betterment of its student body and the region.”
Earlier this year, Noland announced the school, through the Fine Arts Initiative, had nearly reached the two-thirds mark toward its $9.5 million private donation goal.
Last year, the state approved $1.5 million for planning for the new center, but Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2014-15 fiscal year budget did not include money for the remainder of the project.
Noland reiterated that the exclusion of the funding this year is not a setback for the center, saying he’s confident the funding will be included in future budget cycles.
University officials are still negotiating with city leaders for their favorite site for the arts center, a property next to the city’s Millennium Centre known as Lot 1.
Noland said an agreement for the land has not yet been reached, but a proposal before the City Commission Thursday to install a traffic light on State of Franklin at the juncture of Harris and John Robert Bell drives to aid pedestrian crossing will be a first step in assuaging the concerns of the Tennessee Board of Regents.
The university must also reach an agreement to deal with flooding issues on the property from Brush Creek, which bounds it on the north.
Noland also talked of the possibility of the city partnering with the university to build a facility larger than originally planned that could serve as a regional venue for performances.