Coming soon, a theater near you: Bayshore CAPA plans inch forward

Representatives of local arts representatives listen to J.C. 'Chick' Heithaus before they start mulling what they want out of a center and how to make it financially feasible. Paula Robertson photo

Representatives of local arts representatives listen to J.C. "Chick" Heithaus before they start mulling what they want out of a center and how to make it financially feasible. Paula Robertson photo

Almost everyone knows that old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.

But how do you get to a medium-sized, community supported, interdisciplinary art center? There's no punch line here, except maybe: Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise.

After almost eight years of planning, Bayshore Cultural and Performing Arts Center Inc. could be on its way. That was the main takeaway from a meeting called Tuesday for the Bayshore CAPA board members, community arts leaders and two independent consultants brought in to assist with the project.

The proposed cultural and performing art and entertainment venue planned for the Bayshore neighborhood has been slowly inching forward since the idea was conceived by a local group of visual artists in 2004. Since then, the name and the vision have changed slightly, but the intent to build a space to house community art has never wavered.

Now, with the group hoping to secure a lease in the coming months, getting the ball rolling on what exactly the space should look like has moved to the top of its "to-do" list.

Here's the thing: It turns out that building a multiuse performing arts facility that can house everything from ballet to bluegrass to the booming Naples Concert Band is a complex process. Planning it is easy compared to the complexities of determining how to pay for it.

Which is why Bayshore CAPA has brought in a few experts. Joshua Dachs and Steven A. Wolff are generally regarded as two heavy-hitters in the world of theater and performing arts venue consulting. The two have worked on theaters and concert halls across the globe, including smaller, community-based projects and large, multi-million dollar facilities, such as the AT&T Dallas Center for the Performing Arts.

"They really are the best in the business," said Board President J.C. "Chick" Heithaus, adding, "Google AMS (the company the two have built together) and you'll see a list of projects they've worked on as long as your arm."

On Tuesday afternoon, Dachs and Wolff got a chance to interface with Bayshore Capa's tenant advisory council (made up of local arts leaders who have expressed intent on using Bayshore CAPA) as well as the organization's board of directors.

Part brainstorming session, part reality check, the Dachs and Wolff walked the room through all possibilities for the space.

"One of the biggest challenges is getting from what you want to have to what you need to have," said Wolff, as he prepared to ask the group for its list of demands. "And that's not strictly an economic conversation. We're planning a project that's going to serve a generation from a certain point in time, a very challenging point in time at that."

Ultimately, Wolff wanted to know what would define success for Bayshore CAPA and how the group was planning to get there.

From all corners of the room came ideas about space for chamber music, a 2,500-seat auditorium and video recording studios. Someone suggested a black-box theater, while another voice called for a secondary, 600-seat venue.

Using a basic algorithm that asked what was the smallest amount of space each group could utilize and what the least amount of use that space could get to be justifiable, Wolff and Dachs slowly talked the group from what they wanted to have to what reasonably makes sense.

Then they brought up how it would be paid for.

"Less than 5 percent of what we consider to be organizations that are doing well carry any capital debt. Really, the short answer is that there's no viable art center that has capital debt," said Wolff, stressing that you can build it and they will come, but that alone will not pay for your facility.

"When you move in, it needs to be debt-free, otherwise you're constantly going to be in a hole," he said.

This wasn't news to Heithaus, who has always planned to have the building paid for before the doors actually open.

"I think like a doctor: Do no harm," he said. "If, suddenly, the project fell apart, we wouldn't owe anyone anything, that's always been my intent."

Jay Tompkins, a Bayshore CAPA board member and husband of Naples Ballet's owner and director Toshiko Tompkins, said, "There's always this fear that you're using up scarce resources, but you need to get organized before you go to the people who have the ability to help you."

Dwight Richardson, the board's secretary added, "When we go out fundraising we have to have a good story. But more importantly, it has to be a story we can defend with a solid business plan."

Over the next month Wolff and Dachs — along with several other hired consultants — will start hashing out the details of what that solid business plan might look like.

The duo is scheduled to return to Naples in October to go over both the ideas discussed at Tuesday's meeting and the results of a survey sent out last week to 200 visual and performing art leaders in the community.

But they want to stress that nothing — at this point — is final.

At the end of the several-hour-long brainstorming session the two left the crowd with this: "If there was anything to take away from the day it was that no real decisions have been made."

Except that Bayshore CAPA may finally be coming to Naples.

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