Harris Center For The Arts To Celebrate Millionth Ticket Sold

The Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College opened in February 2011 under the name Three Stages and hosted 130 events during its inaugural season. That year, the $50 million facility offered events of every stripe across its three different stages - music, dance, theater, lectures. Since then the Center has grown; in the current 2018-19 Season, the Center will host nearly 400 events and attract audiences of 150,000 attendees.

The Center's first performance, fittingly, was A Chorus Line, the beloved Broadway musical that depicts the ups and downs of life on the stage as experienced by those who sing in the chorus.

"Opening night feels like a lifetime ago," muses Executive Director Dave Pier, who was on board to open the center. "But it's not a lifetime ago. It's a million tickets ago."

One million tickets - it's a magical number, and it represents the number of tickets that have been sold through the Harris Center ticket office since that first performance of A Chorus Line in 2011.

As of November 26, 2018, the Harris Center estimates that the millionth ticket will be sold in the next two to three weeks. The person who buys that fabled ticket will also receive a bonus: 10 complimentary tickets to attend any of the Harris Center's spring presentations - which includes eight national tours of Broadway shows, as well as a plethora of major dance, music and other events.

"One million" is a number that certainly stands out, but there are other equally impressive numbers when it comes to the Harris Center. Since opening, it has been home to over 2,900 events, featuring artists from over 50 countries, generating over $37 million in ticket sales. Last season alone sales topped $5.4 million, the highest to date, and the 2018-19 season is on track to be higher still. Another figure: as of November 15, 2018, over 1,740 volunteers have donated a total of 254,560 hours in support of Center operations - that's around 35,000 hours a year.

In general, the Harris Center prides itself on being a beehive of activity, building community through performances. There's a vibrant presenting program that brings touring artists from around the world to perform and share. That program, by itself, brought 200 events to the Center by the 2013-14 season. Add a growing list of partner organizations with whom the Harris Center works to mount events - active community groups like the Folsom Lake Community Concert Association, Folsom Lake Symphony, Placer Pops Chorale, Sacramento Guitar Society, and commercial promoters like SBL Entertainment and Carrera Productions - as well as the many Folsom Lake College performing groups in dance, theatre and music that use the Center, and it's apparent that the Harris Center has become a cozy home for the arts on the foothill side of the Sacramento Valley.

But a ticket purchased is only a part of the picture that constitutes the Harris Center; besides performances, there are a million other reasons to visit the facility. A visitor may drop by to see an art exhibit in the Bank of America Gallery, which is open to the public free of charge. An area K-12 student might be bused in with her classmates to see a Thursday morning show by El Dorado Musical Theatre or an artist from a different country all together. Or, when school gets out for the year, that student might attend one of the Summer Arts Academy offerings in visual arts, theatre, dance or music production. Through Folsom Lake College's many instructional programs in the arts, college students can learn the craft of technical theatre first hand in the Center's scene shop, practice with a music ensemble in one of many rehearsal spaces, attend a drawing class in the visual arts lab, or visit with faculty whose offices are in the Center. All of these opportunities lie inside the 80,000 square foot facility. The Harris Center has truly earned the title of a "home for the arts."

Yet the impact of such a vibrant regional arts center is not only cultural but economic as well, for the Center is a vibrant business. "The arts provide jobs, and the arts have a real ripple effect across the local economy," notes Pier. "Since the opening of the Harris Center in 2011, the Harris Center and its audiences have generated $10 million annually in related spending - that's over $74 million since 2011. Hundreds of full-time equivalent jobs have been created, and local and state revenues generated by the Center and its audiences have been over $7.5 million." These figures are based on economic modeling by Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy and research organization, which bases its estimates on studies of venues and audiences like those of the Harris Center. "The Harris Center is a cultural and economic force in the community that wasn't here eight years ago," says Pier.

Not one to sit on its laurels, the evolution of the venue and its programs is ongoing. Just this past summer, the facility dramatically upgraded its sound system in the main hall, the 851-seat Stage One. All speakers and amplification are by d&b audiotechnik, a top-tier brand in the industry. "If it were a car, it would be a Ferrari," notes Eduardo Garza, the Interim Technical Director for the Harris Center, who oversaw the system's installation. "The line array technology delivers more clarity, and the d&b Array Processing tailors the sound to the actual shape of the hall, resulting in uniformly excellent sound quality for all seats. You cannot go to another theater now and have better sound."

In addition, significant improvements to the facility's ticketing system and website are underway and will be unveiled in February, 2019. Additional equipment has been purchased to activate the Center's recording studio, located alongside the 100-seat Scott-Skillman Recital Hall and across from the 200-seat City Studio Theater.

The ranks of Harris Center donor members making annual contributions to support Center operations has grown to over 500, and to secure and expand the Center and its programs' for the long run, larger gifts have begun to come in as well - most notably, from the estate of long-time supporters Sevy and Neva Cimaroli, in recognition of which the Center has established the Cimaroli Society for legacy gifts to the Center.

Dave Pier notes that "the Harris Center has nestled into the community quite comfortably, becoming part of the fabric of everyday life. It's hard to imagine that it wasn't always here, even though we're still less than a decade old. Our future is quite bright."

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