Grants for Welder Center improvements expand business usage, entertainment possibilities

The new acoustical shell at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts is seen here in a recent choral performance.

Recent grant-funded improvements to the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts have expanded the Center’s ability to host musical performances and business presentations.

The Welder Center, owned and operated by Victoria College, received $90,000 for acoustical improvements from the Cloyde and Ethel Lee Tracey Foundation in 2012. These funds were used for the installation of an acoustical ceiling on the stage and to improve the sound quality of performances of voice and music, according to Sue Prudhomme, Victoria College’s director of cultural affairs and manager of the Welder Center.

She said the $80,336 ceiling shell was installed over the summer. The remaining $9,664 was used for design of additional acoustical improvements associated with an AV equipment project funded by 2012 Hotel Occupancy Tax funds.

“This expands the possibilities for events that can happen here at the Welder Center,” Prudhomme said. “Before we installed the enhancements and improvements, if a business wanted to have a presentation, we had to build a screen for them, borrow a projector and go through a complicated process for hooking up the projector and audio from the presentation into our house sound system. It was a cumbersome process.”

“Now we have a plug-and-play system,” she explained. “You can come in with your laptop and plug it into an input plate at stage right or stage left. Presentations are channeled through an integrated control system, connected directly into the house sound system and projection equipment.”

Prior to the improvements, it would take Center workers a day to set up a presentation and another day to take it down. This prevented events from occurring at the Center on those days.

The Center now has the capability to broadcast the video and audio of the presentation to monitors located in the lobby. This includes a paging system for audience members in the lobby and actors in the green room, as well as the capability to broadcast live presentations to remote venues.

The acoustical improvements consists of additional right and left house speakers and amplifiers as well as repositioning existing house speakers to eliminate “hot” and “cold” portions of audience audio coverage.

“There shouldn’t be too much of an issue hearing what is happening on stage,” Prudhomme said. “We now don’t have any “cold spots” in the audience. If an actor or performer is miked, they should be able to be heard throughout the performance hall.”

The sound system was first used for Victoria Ballet Theatre’s Fall for Dance production, and audience members remarked on the difference, Prudhomme reported.

“It was primarily dance set to recorded music, but the audience members remarked on the clarity of the music,” she said.
Another sound improvement is the acoustical shell, essentially a fake ceiling, which was used for the first time at a Victoria College chorus performance on Oct. 3.

Panels are lowered from their permanent home in the Center’s fly loft and cantilevered out. Center officials can decide for each performance at what angle they will be – almost flat or at an angle. Prudhomme said the acoustical shell weighs several thousand pounds and takes at least half a day to put in place.

Another City of Victoria grant for $60,000 will go toward the purchase of an $115,000 film projector. Approximately $12,500 has been committed from other sources toward the projector purchase, leaving the Center to raise an additional $42,500. These funds must be spent before September 30, 2014 according to the terms of the grant.

The Welder Center performance hall and facilities are available for rent by performing arts organizations, schools, businesses, nonprofit groups, and area governments.

“At some point, everybody has the need to present information to the community,” Prudhomme said. “We’re hoping that we can be one of the venues that can help to fulfill that need.”

“We were able to implement these projects because of community support,” she added. “We’re really grateful to the community for pitching in to expand the possibilities at the Welder Center. We are here to serve the community.”

Published: Friday, 25 October 2013

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