BELEN — The Belen Public Library was “alive” with drama and music Wednesday evening as a new theater collaborative kicked off its attempt to bring a performing arts center to Valencia County with a big announcement.
“Vivo means alive,” said Miguel Hidalgo, a member of the VIVO Theatre Consortium’s board of directors. “It’s important for Valencia County to come alive.”
To further that goal, Hidalgo announced the consortium would be partnering with Belen Consolidated Schools for use of the old ALCO building on River Road.
“We looked at various locations; there are so many buildings in Belen and Los Lunas, and we’ve been offered parcels of land,” Hidalgo said.
The old ALCO building is centrally located, and from a design perspective, a blank canvas, he said.
“At 40,000-square feet, it’s close to an acre under one roof,” he said. “We think we can seat about 450 people and the parking lot up front has room for about 300. We are very, very excited. There are so many possibilities.”
BCS Superintendent Diane Vallejos said when the district bought the building in 2012, one of the visions was to turn it into a performing arts center.
“For the district, we only have one space and that’s the Belen High School auditorium,” Vallejos said. “It’s a beautiful space but we can only have one thing at a time. This is something that benefits both the community and the schools. We would like to see the building put to good use, and this is a fabulous place the whole community could access.”
The superintendent said the building overall is in good shape, and had the parking lot repaved and asbestos abated a couple of years ago when Tractor Supply was considering locating in the facility.
Hidalgo said the PAC would be used for theater performances, music, dance, arts and poetry readings, as well as other events the community wanted. The consortium, comprised of members of local theatre troupes and high school drama instructors, is a group dedicated to entertain, educate and enrich the community through the development of a vibrant performing arts center in the county.
“There are so many groups here in Valencia County. All of us together can make this happen,” he said. “This can be a place to help Valencia County to thrive.”
The consortium wants to gather input from the community about what the finished facility should contain in order to create a floor plan and schematics for the center.
The possibilities of the space have kept Stephen Boliver awake at night.
“I’ve laid awake, designing and redesigning it,” Boliver said with a laugh. “But this isn’t about what I want; it’s what the community wants. We want to hear everyone’s ideas.”
Some of the features Boliver thinks could be included are a raked house of about 450 to 500 seats, a black box theatre that could double as rehearsal space, as well as community and event space. For comparison, the BHS auditorium has 430 seats, but no black box space.
To move forward, the consortium needs funding, which Hidalgo said they will be asking for from any and all available sources.
“We see this as a public/private venture. We will be asking for capital outlay from the Legislature. A representative from (U.S.) Rep. Xochitl Torres Small has talked to us about it and there are several federal grants available that she can direct us to,” he said. “We’ll be looking at large local corporations like Facebook and BNSF, as well as other local businesses.
“This is a collaboration between us all. We’ll be looking for funding where ever we can get it.”
Hidalgo said the consortium members understood working with the school district requires state approval before anything can really get going.
“In the mean time, we want people to give us ideas,” he said. “What should be in there?”
The consortium is made up of The Mansion Players, The Hub Community Theatre and The Companions of Jesus of New Mexico, as well as drama instructors from Belen and Los Lunas school districts.
The board of directors for VIVO is Theresa and Miguel Hidalgo, with the Companions of Jesus of New Mexico; Marie Benoit, a co-founder of The Mansion Players, the oldest theater group in the county formed in the spring of 2010; Los Lunas High School drama teacher Michelle Gammill, Belen High School drama teacher MaryAnn Detler and BHS drama technical advisor Stephen Boliver.
Gammil, Detler and Boliver are members of The Hub Community Theatre.