ORLEANS — Known as the commercial hub of the Lower Cape, the town may be on its way to a new status as the region's cultural capital.
The Nauset Endowment Fund (NEF) rolled out plans this weekend to turn the Nauset Regional Middle School auditorium into the Nauset Performing Arts Center, a “dynamic, multipurpose facility for everyone.”
Proposed upgrades include installing air conditioning to allow summertime use, state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, extending the stage, and increasing seating.
In what Nauset Superintendent Tom Conrad called “almost the coming-out party,” the NEF board and guests met at the Captain Linnell House to talk about raising funds for the million-dollar capital campaign. Work could begin in January 2018.
“What we've seen in the last few years is that our district is working with communities at a much higher level,” Conrad said in an interview Tuesday. He cited Nauset High's collaboration with Eastham on a tennis facility at the school that's used also by townspeople.
Conrad promised that the performing arts center will be just one of NEF's works. “It's not a one-and-done project,” he said, citing interest in raising funds for which educators could apply to support programs not funded by the schools. “This is the starting point.”
The NEF's annual fund is designed to do just that, by supporting student activities, field trips, student scholarships, professional development, and “educational and cultural programs that will enrich the greater Nauset community,” according to publicity materials.
NEF came to life last year. In addition to Conrad, the founding board includes Ed Benz of Benz Financial Services, Stephen Berzinis of Bayside Financial & Insurance Group, artist Jackie DeRuyter, former Cape Symphony and Conservatory executive director Jerry Karter; Nauset High assistant principal Keith Kenyon; Teresa Martin of Lower Cape Community Access Television, Nauset Middle School principal Dr. Maxine Minkoff; former arts program coordinator for the Orleans Community Partnership Andrea Shaw Reed; Todd Thayer of Cape Cod Brokerage, Inc.; Anne Van Vleck of Cape Cod Young Professionals; and Meika Wahlstrom of Dirtworks. Founding president Thayer will be handing the gavel over to Martin.
The NEF's executive director is someone who knows about achieving goals: former NFL head coach Mike Sherman, now coaching the Nauset Warriors.
“He has a great passion for the arts,” Conrad said, “and getting all kids involved.”
All this activity cheers Minkoff, who has wanted to upgrade the performing space since she became the middle school's principal.
“It's a beautiful auditorium,” she said. “It has good bones.” The space, which dates to 1991, has 550 seats plus room for 185 upstairs.
“I'd love to expand it if we could,” Minkoff said. She said NEF brought in a theater consultant who “wrote a wonderful plan to make this a first-class theater.”
Some upgrades are as practical as installing rigging that would allow the lights to be lowered to the stage; currently, Minkoff said, a brave soul “has to climb up a high, high ladder” to do the job.
Anyone interested in helping the Nauset Endowment Fund climb up to its goal of a revitalized performing arts center in Orleans is invited to go to www.nausetendowmentfoundation.org or to contact Mike Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org